Location: 251 E. 55th St., KC, MO
Food: Classic French
Service: Traditional Wait staff
Atmosphere: Fine dining
Price: Entrees from $12 (burger) to $28 (filet)
Rating: three napkins
Up in the hills of Parkville, there’s Café des Amis. Cross the river southward and you’ll find Le Fou Frog, crouching in the River Market defying you to find it. Hidden in plain sight in the middle of Prairie Village is Café Provence. And don’t forget Westport Café and Bar in the heart of Westport which isn’t working too hard to be strikingly French, but even that credo is sooo French. It’s stiff competition. These are all decent, if not great restaurants. The one missing from this list is the one I recently visited and, as I found, it stands up boldly to the competition.
On our first trip to Aixois, we went for lunch and sat out on the patio. This was a long time ago, but I remember having a decent salad with a generous portion of cold salmon on it (…cold in a good, refreshing sort of way that allowed the salad to avoid wilting. A creamy, lemony dressing perfectly coating the salad with plenty of freshly cracked black pepper and beets. Quite tasty.
On this trip, we were there for a casual dinner. We arrived around 8:00 and it was a quiet night. The dining room was probably only ¼ full but, even though brisk outside, there were several diners on the patio—people savoring the last warm evenings of the fall. We were given a two-top in the northern dining area, against the west windows looking out to the patio. A nice view. Maybe best seat in the house for our sensibilities.
The salad was immaculate, starting with its shrimp. Listed as Salade d'Avocat et de Crevettes Grillees on the menu, the salad came with at least three big, plump and perfectly cooked shrimp on the side, well cleaned and bursting with sweet flavor (shrimp is so wonderful if cooked perfectly and can be a nightmare when overcooked), with a nice cup of aioli in which to dip. The mixed greens supported a beautiful fan of avocado (a generous portion of it, to boot), which was cut nicely by the vinaigrette, acidic cherry tomatoes and sweet raisins. The thinnest imaginable strip of sliced red onion was elegantly laced across the top, adding a final savory bite. There was nothing not to love on this salad--a salad one could actually be excited to eat, rather than obligatory roughage.
When our wine arrived, I was a little confused, thinking it was not what we had ordered. I scoured the label to see if perhaps I was missing something and had not. We’d been delivered a bottle of Sancerre costing $10 more than what we had actually ordered. Rather than complaining, though, we took it as a sign the perhaps our selection had been subpar, and decided to give it a go. Great choice. It immediately cooled our palettes, ripe with that garlic and salt from the snails. We ended up quite happy with the accident, showing that it sometimes pays to roll with the punches rather than whining about a simple mistake.
Also on the slightly disappointing side was the small pile of greens on the side. Warmed by the hot plate, with nothing but a little vinaigrette (okay, one little cherry tomato on the side), it was more a garnish than a true side. Boo. As served, I found myself peeking over to the fish dish, once the meat was gone. With a little more attention to detail on this one, it could have been a French stunner but as served, left something to be desired.
I hope to sample all the places listed in the opening of this review soon and put together a ranking in the future. For now, Aixois has made a strong showing and will sit high on my list of special dinner options.
Rating: 3 napkins