Oct 9, 2011

Piropo's Grille: High on Formality, Low on Fun

Restaurant: Piropo's Grill
Location: 1 W. 1st St., Parkville, MO
Food: South American
Service: Formal Waitstaff
Atmosphere: Fine dining
Price: Apps $3-$12, Sandwiches/pasta $16, Entrees $18-$30
Rating: Two Napkins

There was nothing I didn't find delicious or perfectly adequate about Piropo's Grill. Located on "the hill" in Parkville looking out over the river and quaint little town, it has a spectacular view either from the large interior window seats (where we were) or the patio on the south side of the building, and the view alone makes Piropo's a special restaurant.

Also special is Piropo's cuisine in that it's unique from any other restaurant in the KC area, the closest thing being one of our Brazilian steakhouses which are, in actuality, quite different. Going into this meal, I knew Piropo's to be South American food, skewing toward what we think of as Argentinian with great red meat, foremost. And while I got the food part right, it was the atmosphere that threw me. More on that later.

First, as mentioned, we were seated at a prime table right up against the big east-southeast-looking windows. Great lighting. Awesome view. Since it was sprinkling outside, this was just about the best seat we could have been given.

Our experience with the server was pleasant... though odd. He had a hard time answering our few questions and allowed us to order something that was already sold out, so we had to change our order. Nonetheless, he did make a good recommendation on - strangely enough - the bread. Listed at the very bottom of the menu as "bread" for $2, this starter turned out to be several long shards of seasoned fococcia toast accompanied by garlicky traditional chimichurri and aioli sauces. We were ravenous and the bread, which was served very quickly, hit the spot with bold flavors that immediately satisfied.

Get the bread.
To cool our palettes, we followed up the bread with the avocado and tomato salad. The fruit (right?) were served in nicely sized chunks, garnished with some diced red onion and cumin, salt and pepper and olive oil. It was sublime in its simplicity, the tomatoes' sweet acid cutting the fatty, rich avocado. A classic pair done nicely.

Quickly, then, we descended upon steak. Elizabeth had hers sliced on a bun... the Filet Mignon Sandwich. Plenty of tender, sliced filet mignon was piled onto the grilled bun with red onions and a chipotle sauce. There were nice red ripe tomatoes on the side, with her spinach and french fries, crisp and well-seasoned. We both thought the steak was cooked to perfection--not chewy the way a steak sandwich can so easily be. Admittedly, the meal felt a little more like a lunch than a dinner, but that was an error in ordering as opposed to menu creation. Overall, at $16 it felt reasonably priced and was, in fact, delicious.

Something we could easily make at home but still delicious.
My selection was the 12 oz. KC Strip. Though the cut may have been midwestern, the preparation was very much South American, starting with the fried egg on top. Superfluous protein? Maybe. But that runny yolk was a nice natural sauce that complimented the meat's natural juices.

Somehow the steak was tougher than I expected, perhaps only in comparison to the softness of Elizabeth's filet. It wasn't over-cooked by any means but took more jaw-work than I expected. Still, it was tasty and fun with the Argentinian preparation.

My side of fries was equally good but the spinach was close to inedibe--as salty as I've ever encountered. I enjoy lots of salt and, thus, ate all the spinach, but each bite required an accompanying sip of wine or water.

With a notable wine list and several other unique (for KC) selections on the menu including fish dishes and a set of skewers that sounded terrific, I was left with only one reason for regret and that was the atmosphere. Piropo's is a very attractive and classy restaurant. The aforementioned view is a crucial asset. But knowing the cuisine to be of Latin influence, I was expecting some kind of flare or pizzazz. It lacked that.

The tasteful dining room is filled with pretty hard wood floors and white tablecloths, further decorated with antiques and old-world furniture. The surrounding clientele on Saturday night was a crowd exclusively 60+. Our waiter glided around without sound and spoke too quietly. We caught ourselves eavesdropping on the neighboring table's conversation only because we could hear them so clearly, and them us if we didn't whisper.

I wanted more fun. I hoped for something less - hate to say it - pretentious.

Piropo's is a lovely restaurant that borders on fine dining with one of the best views in KC (save for The American). I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a unique special-occasion dinner. But not for groups of friends wanting to live it up in a Latin setting. That's all.

I'm giving Piropo's a rating of two napkins only for my slight disappointment in the atmosphere. The food is on a higher level, to be sure.

Rating: two napkins

Piropos Argentinian Grille on Urbanspoon

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