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801 Chophouse

801 Chophouse

When 801 Chop House announced it would expand to Kansas City’s Power and Light District a few years ago, I was excited. Friends from Des Moines spoke highly of the flagship location and I knew it was a hot spot for politicos during the Iowa Caucuses. But after dining there more than a half dozen times, I continue to walk away wishing it had been a little better.

One might think a tasty traditional steakhouse can be found on every corner in Kansas City – the cowtown with a growing reputation for great dining. But outside of some national chains like Capitol Grille and Sullivan’s, the grandeur, nostalgia and consistent quality of such a place can be hard to come by in a local outfit. While Pierpont’s, Plaza III and Savoy Grill embody KC’s grand history and never lack for atmosphere, the food rarely beckons me back. After the departure of Morton’s from Crown Center, I had high hopes for a downright delicious steakhouse to fill it’s shoes. While that didn’t happen with 801, it is probably one of the top 5 steak places in the city.

On a recent Saturday night, my husband and I caught an early evening movie at the downtown theatre. The ease of the P&L District is that we didn’t have to load back into the car and drive anywhere in order to have multiple options for dinner. Four good choices were within a single block. Fran’s Diner was passed up in favor of something a little more upscale. Sushi sounded good, but Drunken Fish just doesn’t do it as well as Kona. It came down to Bristol and 801 Chop House. Tough choice, but we often enjoy Bristol for a healthy yet delicous fine dining experience. Tonight, we weren’t adhering to the diets very closely so we walk next door.

Our mission was to watch the game and have a great dinner. Since I’m usually very outspoken about the particulars of our dinners out, I let The Hubs choose the spot in the bar area this time. He passed up some nicely dressed, white table cloth, fully set tables and bellied up. The bar is grand, for sure, but the stools and bar top even provide a comfortable place to dine – something you don’t always find in a beautiful bar. The tables all had good view of the televisions, so 801 can be a place to make your sports fans and more traditional diners both happy.

dining roomI sometimes shy away from eating AT the bar, since bartenders almost always have a lot of people to tend to, from wait staff to the regular down at the end. Surprisingly, one of our favorite waiters arrived at our side saying the waitstaff and barstaff share the whole area and he would take care of us. That was music to my ears! Not only did I want to catch up with him and hear some shop-talk, but I’ve had less than pleasurable service experiences there in the past.

We ordered the Lobster Corndogs, just too hard to resist. In the meantime, our waiter, who knows what we like to drink, made some wine suggestions and answered our questions about the wine list and the menu. One thing I’ve come to appreciate about dining in Kansas City are some of the outstanding servers that take the time to listen and learn what you like. They remember what you ordered last time, what wine you tried and whether you liked it. Our server made our dinner twice as good as a normal visit there.
The Lobster Corndogs were spot-on! It’s just what it sounds like but better – soft corn breading over succulent lobsters on a stick! The mustard dipping sauce is just right alongside. We then shared a boring ceasar salad and hoped the entrees would be much better.

Bone-in filet mignon was one of the specials that evening and how could we resist. Had I actually asked the price, I probably would have. More than $60 each for the 14-16oz steak…..whew! Now I don’t mind paying for a great cut of meat, but I’m always surprised how much more expensive our bill is at 801 compared to other top-notch steakhouses. My husband had his with bearnaise on the side and I opted for the foie gras butter melted overtop.

I’m sucker for foie gras. Even when it’s average, it’s darn good! So the thought of a butter infused with a rich, decadent meaty fllavor was a no-brainer. But boy was I wrong. What I expected to be a savory, rich bite disappointed with a strong orange flavor combined with nutmeg and anise….whoa!  I guess the chef was focused more on a Grand-Marnier dessert style compliment you often find with foie gras, but it didn’t work for me.

Wondering how good the actual steak was without the crazy flavors, I asked my husband for a bite of his naked beef. It was good. Nice rich flavor, but nothing to write home about.

Now the gnocchi side, on the other hand, is one of my favorite preparations. It’s so simple….potato gnocchi topped with butter and parmesan. All the decadent goodness of an indulgent side right there in bite-size pieces. It’s fantastic!

Now as much as I love the gnocchi, I was raised eating potatoes with my steak. And sometimes you need that comfort of sinking your fork into a stiff scoop of well-seasoned mashers to balance out a good piece of meat. I tried to pass on the extra carbs, but finally asked our waiter to bring me a small scoop to have alongside. They appeared in seconds and fulfilled my craving.

For some reason, dessert sounded very necessary that night. We were craving chocolate, but heard the key lime pie was good. So, of course, we got both. The chocolate cake was mediocre as far as steakhouse layered chocolate cakes go. But the key lime was a winner. It was light, almost like a custard. Plenty of flavor and just the right balance of sweet and tart.

Our dinner at 801 was good – attentive service, quality steaks and overall good food. But it didn’t leave an impression. And with the price tag being noticeably higher than other high-end steakhouses, I put other choices at the top of my list.

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