What’s new in KC’s food & drink: September 2023

Photography by Anna Petrow.
A “Culinary Hub” Is Coming to Waldo

KC native and private chef Ashley Bare is turning her meal delivery service Hemma Hemma into a brick-and-mortar culinary hub. Located in the former District Pour House + Kitchen space (7122 Wornall Road, KCMO) in Waldo, Hemma Hemma will be many things, including a “bodega” with a coffee bar, marketplace, instructional kitchen and a dine-in cafeteria-style restaurant.

Bare will continue to offer the meal delivery service that Hemma Hemma is known for. Between meal deliveries and the grab-and-go offerings, Bare expects her restaurant to offer “Kansas City’s best prepared foods.” Hemma Hemma will serve breakfast and lunch and is expected to open in October.

Bare recognizes that cafeteria-style dining sounds “unsexy” but says Hemma Hemma will have a refined “retro vibe.” 

Hemma Hemma’s menu will offer approachable dishes with a twist and change with the seasons. Pickle fried chicken bacon ranch salad, Mexican-style potato salad and roasted broccoli salad with a garam masala lime vinaigrette are just a few examples.

Each area of Hemma Hemma, which means “at home” in Swedish, will take on a different style. 

“Hemma Hemma should feel very much like home,” Bare says. “We have incorporated a lot of residential touches. The interior will be decorated with soft seating, thrifted artwork, throw blankets and pillows. Even the instructional kitchen will look residential.

Bare worked in New York as a private chef and started teaching cooking classes at Haven’s Kitchen in Chelsea. When she moved back to KC, her meal prep delivery service exploded during the pandemic. 

South Asian-Inspired Restaurant Opens in OP
Photography by Zach Bauman

The highly anticipated Of Course Kitchen and Company (7753 W. 159th St., Overland Park) opened in South Overland Park’s Bluhawk shopping complex.

Chef Swetha Newcomb draws from her South Indian heritage to create fusion dishes for his South Asian-inspired restaurant. Signature dishes include a masala duck ravioli with roasted rutabaga topped with a coconut spinach broth, and a whole Branzino fish marinated in garam masala and served with basmati rice and a corn relish. 

The cocktail program was curated by Jay Sanders, owner of the James Beard finalist Drastic Measures cocktail bar. The Dark Side of the Moon cocktail is an espresso martini with chai-infused Kalani coconut while the Wish You Were Here is a mix of Opihr gin, vanilla, Milkis soda and lime. The whiskey program is a nod to Newcomb’s father and his favorite drink. Whiskeys, bourbons and Scotch from around the world will be offered.

“We are incredibly excited to introduce a women-led culinary establishment with Of Course Kitchen & Company,” says the newly appointed general manager Lauren Cruz. “The synergy between Chef Newcomb’s culinary expertise and my passion for exceptional service is a winning recipe,” Cruz says. “We’re redefining fine dining and setting new industry standards.”

The interior is modern with commissioned paintings by Lantei Mills, a renowned artist from Ghana, and clay pieces by Elaine Buss.

New to the East Crossroads: KC’s First Hand-Rolled Sushi Bar

KC is no stranger to maki rolls—sushi rolls cut into singular bite-size pieces—but temaki—rolls shaped by hand in the form of a cone or log and meant to be bitten into—have yet to make an appearance. Until now, that is.

Kata Nori Hand Roll Bar (404 E. 18th St., KCMO), which just opened in the East Crossroads, is the first of its kind in KC, specializing in sushi hand rolls. 

A twenty-four-seat U-shaped bar allows customers to watch a sushi chef prepare each roll individually, ensuring “maximum freshness.” Service will resemble a “chef-led omakase experience, but more affordable,” as the chef will serve the rolls to each patron like a coursed meal. Expect the hand rolls to be shaped into a log form as opposed to a cone shape. The log shape is eaten whole and not cut.

The menu will also offer small plates like crudo, and the environment will emulate a “sleek and modern aesthetic.”

The owners are three friends, one of whom is the sushi bar’s chef, who all grew up in KC. Chef Anh Pham has more than twenty years of sushi industry experience and was the lead chef at Uchi, a renowned sushi restaurant in Texas. 

Exclusive KC Tasting Club Is Ready to Open Its Doors to the Public
Photography provided by KMRA Tasting Club.

The upscale KMRA Tasting Club has been the creative outlet of chef Forrest Wright for the past eight years. With no social media or website to promote his events, Wright’s theatrical and experimental dinners have remained exclusive and available only to those in the know. However, the KMRA Tasting Club has grown in popularity, and the chef is finally ready to open his doors to a wider audience. 

Guests can expect anywhere from eight to ten courses, drink pairings and desserts for $180 to $200 per guest. Wright’s events are notably experimental, and guests can expect to eat (and possibly do) things they’ve never done before. Plate presentations often resemble a Jackson Pollock painting, with splatters of brightly colored sauces and an abundance of textures. Some dishes even have a sculptural quality, with different elements building on top of one another, giving the meal a towering height. 

“I like to have a little bit of chaos on the plate so it’s a little unrefined,” Wright says. “The contrast of something really splatter-y and messy with something really polished—it’s my signature. It’s kind of who I am as a person.”

Nowadays, the chef puts on about two to three dinners a month. Each dinner features a local winery, distillery or farm and follows a theme. “Carnivorous,” for example, featured massive meaty portions. Coming in August is “Synesthesia,” which will explore the chef’s ability to “taste things in color.”

Wagyu tartar with a squid ink béarnaise sauce that makes the whole plate essentially black is just one example of Wright’s artistic delivery. One of his most requested dishes entails a roasted quail, which guests must tear apart with their hands to build a sandwich.  Wright describes the interactive meal as “very visceral.”

“I want to bring the finer things to everybody and let people explore things they might not necessarily get to eat, ingredients they might not be familiar with or be exposed to and allow them to participate in things they might not normally see.”

All in all, the chef recommends guests “be ready for anything.”

For those who want to attend a KMRA Tasting Club dinner, email booking@KMRAtastingclub.com or inquire through the KMRA Instagram, @kmra.tasting.club

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