A Dining Pleasure
The Ambassador Hotel’s Reserve can take a bow.
The 43-room hotel has numerous areas that beckon, but it’s the lounge/restaurant that immediately engages, boldly blanketed in white leather furnishings and seductive lighting.
It’s the ultimate place to make an entrance, especially when executive chef Geoffrey Van Gleebeck is working his magic at breakfast, lunch and dinner in the 70-seat Reserve. Ambitious, perhaps, but that’s a hallmark of this 30-year-old iron chef.
We made our entrance on a weeknight. The room was quiet but we were delighted nonetheless. Positioned in a banquette of generous proportions, I was distracted momentarily by the sheer elegance of the room. Glancing up, I was sure I saw Bogey smugly tip his hat from the mezzanine.
Meanwhile, my two magpies hardly drew a breath until our server stepped up.
“It’s her birthday,” one bud chirped instantly, signaling dessert would be on the ticket.
Our chatter subsided as we got down to business. The menu offers simple and hearty entrees designed by Van Gleebeck, a Culinary Institute of America graduate.
Gazpacho shooters or devilish truffled eggs were initially considered, but we settled on the lobster corn dog for starters ($11). Sounds like a coney-gone-carney. Kitschy but clever, I thought. Shortly, three “dogs-on-a-stick” arrived and were heavy on batter but actually pretty tasty.
“All that’s missing is a funnel cake,” snarked a bud.
The notion of small plates is so smart; we figured we’d downsize. Why be a glutton when there’s no need?
Birthday Bud opted for the bricked chicken over quinoa pilaf, wild mushrooms and wilted spinach ($14). Taste Bud No. 2 decided on the braised flank-style short ribs bathed in a thyme-cabernet sauce and sided with a creamy orzo risotto ($15). I thought the farmers market parpadelle seasoned in a spicy ragu sounded tempting ($14).
As we waited, Van Gleebeck stopped by to say hello. We peppered him with questions about his foray into the Kansas City market.
“So far, it’s been a good move for me — happy to be here, especially in The Ambassador’s surroundings,” said the Tulsa, Okla., native.
And with that, our entrees arrived, steamy and aromatic. The platings looked small but after bites all around we agreed, not only was there enough to satisfy, each dish was ample.
“Delicious,” mouthed Birthday Bud.
“Tender ... and the risotto is terrific,” said Taste Bud No. 2.
“I love the ragù sauce, heavy on the al dente vegetables,” I said, happily spooning up the rosy spice.
We rested, but only momentarily.
Though she balked, Birthday Bud declined dessert — until it arrived. The ice cream sandwich, a palm-sized cookie filled with ice cream du jour, was memorable ($7).
“We serve the cookies at happy hour,” said our server as I made a mental note.
“Thought you weren’t interested,” I said, noticing Birthday Bud sampling.
“Ah well,” she smiled, “it’s a celebration.”
And that it is.
Make it a date and treat yourself to the upscale Reserve. Put on your high-heel sneakers and savor a return to elegance.
Reserve at The Ambassador Hotel
1111 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, Mo.
Gloria Gale is an Overland Park-based food writer. “On the Menu” is not a restaurant review, it is a summary of dining out in Johnson County and the Metro.
photos: Steve Puppe