Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review | Julian KC

Julian Continues to Wow!

As far back as she can remember, Celina Tio has been fascinated by food. Through her childhood years, into her teens and now as an adult, Chef Tio has dedicated her life to the sole focus of one day opening her own restaurant. That dream came true in the fall of 2009 when she opened Julian in the heart of Brookside. With forays into the world of TV on Top Chef Masters and America’s Next Iron Chef, Tio has gained valuable insight and even greater focus on making her restaurant one of the best dining experiences in Kansas City. 
At one point in 2009 when she was looking for space to open her new place she was about ready to move to North Carolina when she found opportunity knocking in the form of the recently closed Joe D’s location. A Brookside mainstay for over 20 years, Joe D’s former spot offered Chef Tio a great blend of strong foot traffic, solid neighborhood support, and diners yearning for her amazing twists on American comfort food.  And so Julian was born.
We made our way over to Julian on a cool summer evening last week excited to see what Chef Tio would have on her summertime menu. Warmly greeted by our server Sebastian we were immediately appreciative of his knowledge of the menu and willingness to make recommendations. Often you will find servers are so terrified of recommending the wrong thing (and thus risking their tip) that they dance around the questions like a kid playing dodge ball at recess.

Sebastian thankfully was happy to give us suggestions on all of our courses and wines to pair with them as well. Based on his advice we started with glasses of their featured wines from the Alsace region of France and the Bowl O’ Mussels. The mussel’s appetizer came out and instantly you were comforted by the aroma of the white wine and garlic broth. My dining partner, who just 6 months ago unsuccessfully tried mussels for the first time was hesitant to give them a second chance. After a little prodding she gave in and was rewarded with the result. The sauce came together in a wonderful harmony that coated each mussel and left you feeling like you could eat bowl after bowl of these little treats for hours on end.
Moving on to our main course, and by both the recommendation of Sebastian as well as friends who have dined at Julian recently, we selected the seared scallops and the sautéed beef for our entrees. The beef came out perfectly medium rare, as ordered, and was set atop a potato gratin and buttery green beans. The scallops arrived accompanied by mashed potatoes and a creamy corn. My first bite of the sautéed steak was exactly how I hoped it would be. Wonderfully tender, exquisitely moist, and a silky smooth finish with the accompanying sauce are just a few of the descriptors out of dozens I   could use. The potato gratin was seasoned well and the potatoes were tender without being mushy (another pet peeve of mine). The only mildly disappointing aspect of the dish was the green beans. While they were cooked properly, the beans just ended up a little bland. Lack of seasoning is mostly to blame for this. Now, if I thought the sautéed steak was everything I’d hoped it was, the seared scallops were ready to take the beef dish on head to head.  Perfectly searing a scallop is often a difficult balance between getting a good sear with nice color on the scallop without over cooking it and turning the delicate crustacean into a puck more suitable for a hockey game. Chef Tio and the kitchen hit this one out of the park. The scallops melted in your mouth, and with each bite you desperately wished you were not getting one more bite closer to finishing your dish. The mashed potatoes were light and airy; so as to not weigh down the dish and overpower the scallops, while the spicy creamed corn was a perfect balance to give the plate just a little punch. 

We finished our meal with the chocolate marbled cheesecake and cocoa bread pudding with crème anglaise. While both of these deserts were good, they were not great. Maybe it was the reality of coming down from two such tremendous plates of food the previous course, or maybe the expectations were so high at this point in the meal, but the desserts while very tasty were the least exciting aspects of the meal.
As we were finishing up, Sebastian mentioned to us that one of the goals of Chef Tio is to always leave the diner wanting one more bite. With our first two courses, I don’t know if only one more bite would have sufficed for me. They were so amazing, that I would have needed another dozen or so bites.


5 out of 5 Cows

3.5 out of 5 Cows

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