The transition from the cold winter to warm summer can bring about a shift in food tastes: Instead of soup, we look for fresh dishes. And in recent years, raw foods like poke and sushi have become more popular in landlocked Kansas City.
Here are the Central Standard Food Critics' favorite spots for fresh seafood and raw protein dishes around the area.
- Bob Wasabi Kitchen — Bob Wasabi has some of the best sushi in town; chef Bob Shin is just a master with a knife and his selection of fish is exceptionally good. For a good sample, diners can usually just get a nigiri or sashimi platter with two pieces of the day's fish specials. The spicy fish bowl and poke bowl are both outstanding, with raw assorted sashimi and fresh vegetables tossed with a soy chili sauce.
- Sushi U.N.I. — Lenexa's Sushi U.N.I. has quickly become a favorite. One notable appetizer is a yellowtail jalapeño sashimi plate with homemade ponzu sauce; I also like their sashimi appetizer, which is simple: 3 pieces of tuna, 3 salmon and 2 tako for $12.
- Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar — Emersum Oysters are raised exclusively for Jax by Rappahannock River Oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. They are slightly less expensive to order than those flown in from the coasts.
- Jarocho — $1 oysters have put Jarocho's Kansas City, Kansas, location on the map. Chef Carlo Falcon's seafood brunch has plenty of them to choose from, along with a host of other chilled seafood. I recommend the ceviche or the Vuelve a la Vida, which is a medley of seafood, red onions and avocado in a liquid cocktail sauce made from fresh limes, tomato puree and spices.
- Farina — Chef Michael Smith's new Italian restaurant came with a sweet treat in the form of the raw bar, where you can sit and point to whatever you want from the case (including fresh oysters for $3 each), while watchingthe busy street outside and downtown to the north.
- Mass St. Fish House & Raw Bar — This pretty little spot on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence offers a lovely raw bar where you can sit with a glass of wine and order from a selection of oysters on the half shell and watch them prepared in front of you.
- Pearl Tavern — The Pearl Tavern is a great little seafood spot, also with a nice raw bar, from Andy Lock and Domhnall Molloy, who also brought us Summit Grill.
- Freestyle Poké — Freestyle describes its poke bowl sizes as "good," "better" and "best." I love the spicy Why So Serious? bowl (spicy Albacore tuna, freestyle shoyu, jalapeno, avocado and cilantro over forbidden black rice with crunchies on top), which is around $12 for a small. It is quick, tasty and priced right.
- BRIO Tuscan Grille — One of the few things I can order with confidence when I go to Brio is their thinly sliced beef carpaccio served with an aioli, accompanied by a tossed and dressed green salad and crackers.
- Golden Ox — A giant mound of crushed ice serves as the bed for the biggest jumbo shrimp I have ever seen, boiled before being served chilled with a bit of cocktail sauce.
- Stock Hill — Stock Hill offers a crystal cut bowl of crushed ice with jumbo shrimp and a make-your-own cocktail sauce. There's also a beautiful raw pink tuna with pickled cucumber, mango cream cheese, miso vinaigrette, grapefruit and hibiscus rice chips.
- Eddie V’s Prime Seafood — A platter of jumbo shrimp comes with a make-your-own cocktail kit. There's a wide selection of fine caviar, priced up to $165 for 36 grams of a trio from Royal Siberian, Kaluga Huso and Imperial Ostrea.
- Bluestem — Bluestem's hand-cut beef tartare comes with with braised sauerkraut, truffle dijon and pickled mustard seed.
- Pierpont’s at Union Station — Pierpont's hand-cut steak tartare comes with caper peppadew relish, whole grain Dijon, frisee, quail egg gribiche, black garlic and herb lavosh.
- Ça Va — Missouri-based Hackleback caviar is served with chives, parsley, shallots, creme fraiche and crispy potato chips.
Mary Bloch, Around the Block
- Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room — Corvino's incredible beef tartare has been served a variety of ways since opening; currently, it's with sour cucumber and horseradish. I love the mustard seed version as well.
- The Antler Room — Hamachi tostada comes with avocado, garlic aioli, jalapeño and cucumber.
- Bōru Ramen — This place has a poke bowl that I can't resist ordering every time I go. With a citrus soy sauce, pickled and fresh veggies, including radish, edamame, cucumbers and seaweed, it's everything I want in a poke bowl.
- Rye — Rye has a beautiful steak program, so you can feel very comfortable eating raw meat there. I'm partial to beef tartare with grilled sourdough, capers, Dijon, fried capers, pickles and egg yolk.
- Story — I'm not sure chef-owner Carl Thorne-Thomsen can ever take ceviche off his menu. People clamor for it and it's always a delight. Made with fluke, apples, tomatillos, jalapeño and lime, there's a sweet and sour thing going on that's irresistible, and it's served in the shape of a round mold.
- Anton’s — Anton's has an in-house butcher shop, so this is a great place to enjoy beef carpaccio, which comes with capers, shaved parmesan, lemon and crostini.
- Novel — Novel always has a crudo on the menu. Currently it's hamachi crudo with shiitake conserva, pickled green mango, wasabi, rice pearls and hijiki.
- The Savoy At 21c — Hamachi crudo is served with olive oil ice cream and puffed rice, while the steak tartare is a bit more traditional, with pickles and mustard.
- Westport Cafe and Bar — Steak tartare with avocado-wasabi, Asian pickles and toasted bread is a French classic with a twist.
Danielle Lehman, Open Belly Podcast
- Ika Grill — Ika Grill is a newcomer on the Kansas City sushi scene, but it's a solid choice. The fish is fresh and the prices are reasonable, plus the staff is great and the owners are lovely. They have happy hour from 3-6 p.m. Monday to Friday and all day Sunday. My go-to nigiri choices are fatty tuna, yellowtail, halibut, albacore, salmon and red snapper.
- Kabuki Sushi — Kabuki is a hidden gem in Brookside, located at the bottom of an apartment building on Meyer and Wornall. The nigiri is some of the freshest in the city, and it's a cozy little neighborhood spot to hide out from large crowds and long waits at other Brookside restaurants.
- Desta’s Ethiopian Cuisine — Kitfo is a traditional Ethiopian dish that is similar to a tartare. It's made with finely chopped beef, coated in butter and seasoned with traditional Ethiopian spices. It's served with Desta's house made injera and a choice of sides, and you can't go wrong with any of the options.
- Cafe Europa — Located in the Crestwood Shops on 55th near Oak Street — which is just about the cutest block in town — Cafe Europa has my favorite steak tartare. It's a perfect ratio of dijon, caper and lemon, accompanied by house made potato chips that are the ideal vessel for a tartare: they give it a nice crunch and a chip allows the tartare to shine (instead of being overpowered by a baguette).
- The Rieger — The Rieger's steak and oyster tartare is a decadent take with the addition of oysters, but the mignonette, olive oil and dill are subtle. It’s served with house made crackers that resemble a sleeve of Ritz but are far more addicting. Chef Howard Hanna told me that he first saw this dish on a menu in France years ago and was surprised to see how well the ingredients worked together, so he added his version to the Rieger menu.
- Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food — This Scandinavian "charcuterie" board has a variety of cured meats, cheeses and pickled and cured fish. It's a great option for trying a few raw proteins on one plate, some of which I haven't seen on any other menu in town.
- Meshuggah Bagels — The lox and bagel is the closest thing to a New York bagel you can find in Kansas City, and their salty lox is delicious. There are several options for bagels and schmears, but I prefer an everything bagel, plain schmear and the works (capers, onion, tomato). Meshuggah means "crazy" so sometimes I go nuts and get the jalapeño schmear.
- El Pueblito — El Pueblito on Southwest Boulevard has a classic take on ceviche. It's available at happy hour for around $5, making it one of the most affordable raw dishes in the city. The flavors are really bright and the cilantro is always fresh and flavorful.
- El Pirata — El Pirata is a hidden gem in Kansas City, Kansas, which transports you to what feels like a beach-side shack with ceviche and a nice selection of cervezas. Owner Josefina Saenz is lovely and makes you feel at home.
- Silo Modern Farmhouse — A modern American farmhouse, they have an amazing octopus ceviche.
- Whole Foods Market— Every Friday from 4-7 p.m. they have $1 oysters, fresh crab and poke in the tap room. It's delicious, eclectic and well-priced.
Celisa Calacal is an intern at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at @celisa_mia.