Brookside’s Iron Chef

Yes I’m hooked on “The Next Iron Chef”…because fellow Brooksider Celine Tio is in the competition.  She’s a formidable competitor for the male chefs on the show–even though they don’t seem to think so.  As of last Sunday, there are five competitors left–and Celine is the only female. 

I’ve eaten at Julian, Tio’s restaurant located here in Brookside,  and interviewed Celine for this blog.  She’s a friendly, no-nonsense, dedicated chef and doesn’t have the drama personality so many reality shows attract.  Each week I watch her and think, ‘good for you–just crank out the food, stay above the bickering and go for the win’.  She’s so unlike the men who seem to be much more cut-throat and ego-driven. Celine has had to face an unruly outdoor flaming grill of fire and a plastic coated bowl melting at the stove–of course she’s frazzled but manages to overcome the problems and create winning dishes.  I suspect she cringes at some of the staged antics she had to go through on the show–the promo photo of a tough-looking, intimidating chef isn’t her at all. 

Last Sunday’s episode had the chefs preparing four dishes, representing the north, south, east and west areas of the U.S.  Celine cooked various representations of a lobster roll, dirty rice, pork belly pot roast and a Philly snack cake.  She didn’t win the challenge, but she ‘survived to cook another day’ –meaning she wasn’t eliminated.

Chef Tio is a master at marketing her restaurant and, along with her appearance in the show, is  featuring a special Sunday seating at 7pm.  Dinner is served that includes food she cooked on the show; at 8pm diners stay to watch the next episode on tv.  The Next Iron Chef tapings concluded months ago–we don’t know at this point if she was the ultimate winner. But the fact that she’s made it this far–and turned  the appearance into a smart publicity tool for her restaurant–surely makes all the frantic competition worth it.

I would love to interview her again about the Iron Chef experience–some good behind-the-scenes stories that any viewer would relish hearing! In the meantime, I’ll just have to make another date for dining at her place and hope she can pass along a story or two as she table-hops through the restaurant. Even if she doesn’t ultimately become The Next Iron Chef, at least more local Kansas City folks are discovering–and patronizing–Julian. It’s every chef’s dream to open their own restaurant.  She did it during the economy’s collapse and survived, thrived through her own hard work, great food and dedicated staff. Support local businesses…dine at Julian for lunch or dinner. And don’t forget dessert…mmmm, the chocolate pudding and ginger donut!

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My Dinner at Julian

Last Saturday night…a splurge with dinner at Julian.  Took some good friends out for dinner, no kids!, and had a great evening.  Yes, it was expensive for my usual ‘let’s go out to eat’ budget but as I said, it was a splurge.

Despite the  nasty weather, at 7pm the place was almost full–in the bar and dining room.  It’s fine to wear jeans–our waiter did. I was expecting a more polished appearance (at least nice jeans that fit well?) , but he did a good job with service.  Reading the menu for me was a challenge–had my contact lenses in but the print was small and there wasn’t much light at our table. I like to see the menu–and my food.  To start,  I had the spinach salad which was nicely dressed (not soggy with dressing at all) and sprinkled with some sort of fancy whole almonds. The portion was ample.  I suppose the fancier restaurants have stopped serving bread with a salad — I would have enjoyed a whole grain slice to go along with the spinach.

My entree was the pork shoulder and my husband  ordered the braised beef.  When both were served, the appearance took us by surprise–it was a dense square piece of meat, about the size of a larger brownie. When Chef Tio came by, she explained how the meat is slow cooked for eight hours, the fat is pulled out and the rest of the meat is compacted into the serving squares. Along with the sweet potatoes and one melted marshmallow, I ate 1/2 of the meat (saving room for dessert).  Hubby finished his plate, which came with a square of scalloped potatoes and brussel sprouts.  Friends ordered the duck cassolet and the fish tacos–no complaints.

On to dessert!  I had heard about the chocolate pudding and ginger donut–that’s what I ordered. The waiter said all desserts were under 500 calories–mine was surely 499.  The pudding was rich and smooth; the donut tasted like a ‘baked’ donut I make at home–nothing special but tasty.  Coffee is served in a french press. 

Once the room filled up, it was quite noisy.  We could converse speaking louder than normal. This would be annoying after a while.  We didn’t feel rushed at all, and it’s a nice touch to have the Chef come out and check on every table.  Someone else came by the table as well–he did not identify himself and didn’t look like a manager–untucked shirt, jeans,–still, he asked how our meal was.

As for pricing…just the salad and entree came to $30.  Add in a drink and dessert with coffee–that’s a $100 meal for two people.  Not unreasonable for a place like Julian (or Carmen’s Cafe, Axious, Avenues Bistro) but just high enough that for me, this is  a special occasion restaurant.  Julian recently opened for lunch–will try that sometime with a client.  Once the weather gets warm enough, the patio will be the spot for drinks and people watching.  I hope Julian does well–you can tell Celine has put her heart and soul into the place.  Support local businesses and try Julian!

New Restaurants in Brookside-Julian and Mezzaluna

Support local businesses…the money you spend locally tends to stay in the area and is ‘respent’ many times over.  Residents of Brookside and Waldo are known for their loyalty to local businesses.  ALthough there are a few national chain operations here (Baskin Robbins, Mr Goodcents, Tuesday Morning), waht gives our neighborhoods it’s character is the LACK of the same national restaurants and stores you see all over the suburbs in most Any City USA.

Armour Hills has a new restaurant with Mezzaluna at 120 East Gregory.  I stopped in yesterday, not for dining but to just check out the atmosphere and menu.  Unfortunately, I was not greeted warmly by the gentleman at the front who surely is one of the owners.  I asked to see a menu, and he wordlessly gave me a to go menu.  I asked about the upstairs room and he offered to escort me up there for a quick look.  Was hoping for some friendly conversatin initiated by him–after all, I’m a potential customer.  When I’m holding an openhouse and someone walks in, you can be sure I am greeting them with a smile and telling them a few specifics about the home.brookside rest 002

Inside there area comfortable booths and some tables, plus a small bar area.  The is a separate ‘to go’ pick up area–very convenient!  On the menu, lunch offers several variations on pizza, $7-8 each, with pasta items priced the same.  The three entrees are chicken, veal or eggplant parmigiana.  Salads are an extra charge.  Dinner entrees must be lovingly prepared–the menu tells you to allow 25 minutes for preparation of your meal.  Averaging $14-18 each, the entrees come with a potatoe and vegetable.  Pizza is also an option at night, priced at $14.  I fyou are planning a special event or have a large party, the upstairs dining area is elegant and comfortable.  It seats 28-40 persons. Mezzaluna is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. 

brookside rest 001Celebrated ex-American Restaurant chef Celine Tio has opened Julian at 6227 Brookside Plaza, in the former spot of Joe D’s. I have not dined here yet but hope to soon–Ms Tio promises good food that won’t break the budget–let’s see if she delivers on taste and portion size.  Sandwiches and entrees are on the menu, including lobster Shepard’s Pie, fish tacos, braised short ribs and mini desserts.  Cheesy grits and onion rings are a couple of the side dishes.  The decor is minimal:  there are placemats, not tablecloths, and the outdoor patio is a welcome option during good weather.  Right now Julian is open only for dinner; lunch and breakfast hours are planned. 

Thanks for reading my blog..have you dined at either restaurant?  Tell me about it with your comments!