Okay, first thing's first, that place up on Wornall has changed its name AGAIN, and is now "Petra" Mediterranean cuisine. I've only had terrible food there in the past, but I'm going back. If I found out the reason why they change their name so much, it would probably be pretty anti-climactic, so I'm never going to ask. Instead, I'm going to eat there once whenever they change names. It's just too weird to pass up. The place is in an old Taco Bell and it's less than two blocks from my house. They've got a daily lunch buffet, so details to follow. I feel like Elaine on Seinfeld going back to a crappy sub shop to get her card punched just to get a FREE crappy sub, but it can't be helped. It's worth the eight bucks just to see what part of the restaurant is being held together with duct tape this time around.
So my friend who recently started working at Pachamama's finally got me to meet him for dinner there tonight. It was a truly great meal, and will make it into my regular rotation from now on. As far as the room itself, I liked it a lot because it had a much more casual feel than you would expect when reading the menu. Nice and laid back in that Lawrence kind of way. The space that holds the bar is set up kind of strange, with weird angles that don't make it very inviting. And they either need to have a lot more bottles of liquor on display or cut back on them, they just seem to be jumbled on the shelves. Not sure about anyone else, but I'm seriously not a fan of those cabinets that hold the wine bottles so that they can be poured from spigots. That was kind of strange too, but has absolutely nothing to do with the food, so it's a non-issue. I can't really give an objective review of the service, because I was eating with someone who works there. From looking around the dining room, I don't think our experience was the exception to the rule. There was an appropriate attention to detail, and anyone I interacted with was friendly as could be and seemed to be genuinely appreciative of any feedback.
Anyway, the food itself was top notch from start to finish. Unfortunately, all of the dishes we had will be gone tomorrow when the December menu starts, but what a great thing it is to completely revamp the whole thing once a month. The starters we ordered were the "Fish and Chips", which was cornmeal coated fluke, with tempura string beans and thick slices of portabello mushrooms. I could have made a meal out of that alone. We also got the country game terrine that came with quince preserves and walnut raisin toast. Extremely rich. I forgot to ask what all was in the terrine, but it was very flavorful with a sweet and hearty character to it. A little went a long way. I got an arugula salad that was probably the highlight of the meal, and possibly the best salad I've ever had. The arugula was all smaller, tender leaves, and had slices of very ripe pear, Serrano ham, Marcona almonds, a cheese called Bellweather Pepato that reminded me of a milder sheep's milk cheese with cracked peppercorns in it. The dressing was a sherry vinegar. Just perfect, I could eat that salad all the time. It ruined me for arugula salads anyplace else. We were pretty over the top ordering food, and my friend got another starter for us to try that had small links of bison sausage, sweet peppers, goat cheese, walnut-mustard vinaigrette and Napa choucroute. It was WAY more flavorful than anything I grew up eating, but at its core reminded me of the best sausage and saurkraut my mom ever made. Just incredible. The poster child for ultimate winter dishes. That dish along with the salad would have been a perfect meal by itself.
For our mains, my friend got the mixed grill of the evening that had roasted striped bass, a cut of beef that I can't recall, and what I think was some rendition of smoked pork tenderloin. I tasted the pork, and it was saturated with much more flavor than I expected, and very moist. I got the coffee rubbed filet of venison with a fig balsamic glaze and this awesome root vegetable/chestnut gratin. The medium rare venison was really good, although a couple of pieces were a little tough. The gratin was very interesting. Almost like potato, but not quite. It had a different texture and sweetness that went along well with the chestnut flavor, and a great crust on the top where the cheese had been broiled.
I don't usually swoon over desserts at all, but we got something at the end of the meal with a name like "molten sugar cake". Can't remember exactly what the name was. It tasted kind of like a much more subdued version of a spice cake with some citrus peel (I think) baked into it. The outside of it had a slight sugar crunch to it, and the whole thing was moist in a way that yelled "ton o' butter". It was served warm, with a dollop of creme fraiche ice cream on top, and a center of gooey caramel. If you go, get this dessert. I can't remember the last time I got behind a dessert like this, absolutely incredible. You can also get a big French press pot of coffee, and after that much food I needed it before trying to drive back to KC.
We went a little insane with the food ordering, but in all I found it to be a great value for what you were served. Most of the starters average about $8, and most of the mains are $22-$25. Since it's Kansas, I was excited to be able to take my own wine in there, so that cut down on the overall cost as well. We got to enjoy a bottle of Brunello and a Syrah (Two Hands?) that I could not comfortably afford off of a wine list (and I'm never going to have food like that to accompany it in my house).
So I'm sold, I'll be back. Considering the variety, the menu is really big. Plus it changes every month. I got a look at the menu that begins tomorrow, and not one thing was repeated from November that I recall, with the exception of their signature salad. There are brandade potato pancakes and a cassoulet I'm going to have to get back there and try. I rarely go to Lawrence just to have dinner, but this is worth it to me. There's something special going on with the food that exists outside the realm of simply being trendy. I can't remember seeing many Pachamama's reviews on the board, but I'm assuming there are some other hounds who enjoy it as well.