Why I Love Paulo and Bill

Even if you live in Kansas City, chances are you may have no idea what I’m talking about.  For years, we drove by this restaurant just inside the 435 loop on Midland Drive, assuming from its exterior that it was some version of a diner and from its name that it was a Mexican restaurant.  Instead, Paulo & Bill is a nice steak and seafood restaurant that also offers a nice variety of pastas.  And one that we’re so lucky to have just down the road.

Their website says that “few restaurants in Kansas City can provide an intimate setting for cocktails and dinner and an appropriate place for an evening out with the kids.”   They’re right on the mark, and I believe one of the few.  A few years ago, we ventured inside and were pleasantly surprised to find an elegant and comfortable interior and a packed house on a Saturday night.  It quickly became one of our neighborhood favorites, and we visited for a mid-priced date night or when we had company in town, enjoying the steakhouse-style atmosphere with efficient, thoughtful service.  The dinner menu carries entrees such as flatbread pizzas, pastas, steaks, and seafood, all priced in the $15-30 range.  It also includes a good variety of gluten-free and vegetarian dishes.  The nightly specials are always inventive and tempting, and a good value.  The simple wine menu has nothing but good options.

When our daughter was born, we joined the early dinner crowd, and were thrilled that it still felt like we had enjoyed a nice dinner out.  We’ve visited with her on occasions ranging from Mother’s Day to “Christmas” as a family, and are pleased with the level of service, the food, and the atmosphere each time.  Granted, she’s under a little pressure to behave, but the staff is kind enough to tuck us away in a corner where we can enjoy ourselves without the constant fear of disturbing other guests.  And she’s a good little dining companion, so it isn’t usually an issue.

Last night we decided on Paulo & Bill for a nice dinner out as a family, and I was reminded how much I just love it there.  A couple of reasons why:

  • Every one of the three specials sounded amazing.  Accompaniments that caught my attention were bourbon-vanilla glaze, crabcake topped with pancetta, mango buerre blanc, and cranberry parmesan risotto.  Not all together, but you probably knew that.  Yum.  Yum.  Yum.
  • After ordering the grilled Pacific Sea Bass served over wild mushroom ravioli, with roasted tomato, artichokes and  lobster jalepeno cream, I had a serious case of diner’s regret when it occurred to me that I don’t really love sea bass, and that fish didn’t sound good anyway.  (I think I was distracted by the wild mushrooms and the lobster jalepeno cream.)  I swear, I don’t usually do this and the thought of changing it after our order went to the kitchen made me miserable.  We caught our server and my dear husband asked if they had started the sea bass yet and if not, to skip it.  Our server Kirk literally sprinted to the kitchen and stopped the order, then graciously returned and asked if I would like to see the menu again.  No questions asked, no dirty looks, big smile.  I’ve been there enough that I knew just what to order without a menu — the Deburgo Pasta, spicy please!  I’ve enjoyed it on numerous occasions and it’s my hands down favorite — peppered beef tenderloin with mushroom and onion tossed with linguine in a white wine garlic oregano cream.  Spicy is an option, achieved through the smart addition of chipotle peppers.  I still felt like a first-class jerk, but Kirk took attentive and kind care of our table the rest of the evening and I quickly felt normal again.  We tipped him well.  Really well.  We’ll request his section next time (and I won’t change my order…I swear).
  • When my side salad was delivered, they also brought my sweet girl a complimentary kid’s salad — an elegant plating of sliced apples, carrot sticks, and celery spears with a cup of dressing.  Just enough for a healthy kids appetizer.  Her eyes lit up…it was pretty…and “dipping” is of newfound importance to her.  Speaking of kids, children’s dining options there are not limited to chicken tenders and macaroni and cheese (although both are available and the chicken is coconut crusted!).  Instead, tiny diners can choose grilled salmon, chicken or beef, with both a starch and a vegetable.
  • Other not to be missed dishes include the gnocchi (with spicy red sauce, spinach and parmesan…great for kids), lasagna (with Italian sausage, seasoned beef, ricotta, and Paulo’s red sauce), and the Maytag bleu cheese stuffed grilled beef tenderloin.

It’s worth a stop-in if you’re nearby.  I think that no matter your occasion, you too will be pleasantly surprised.

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Benton’s Prime Steakhouse

I scored a great deal on a gift certificate for Benton’s Prime Steakhouse from Restaurant.com, and the husband and I used our back-to-back birthday extravaganza this past weekend as an excuse to use it up!  I wanted to visit this summer, so we would have daylight late into the evening and enjoy the city views from the restaurant.  My sweet mother- and father-in-law offered to watch Baby E, and we headed to the Westin Crown Center for a date night out. 

I had read the menu at Benton’s previously and know they recently changed their name to Benton’s Prime (from simply Benton’s) to better reflect their offering of Prime steaks.  Given my Nebraska roots, I was also excited because the menu featured beef from Morgan Ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, including Wagyu (Kobe) beef.  So I planned on eating some Nebraska beef!

First stop, free covered parking at the Westin Crown Center.  Perfect for temps anywhere between 7 and 107 degrees.  (After all, this IS Kansas City.)  When the elevator reached the 20th (and final) floor, we were stunned with our first city view.  Visitors to Benton’s bar will enjoy this view late into the night.

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Our table was on the restaurant’s South side, and we were surprised to find lovely views there as well.  In fact, the restaurant kitchen is in the center of the building extending to the West (covering only a portion of the West wall), so there are spectacular views from each direction.  Reservations should probably be made if you’re picky.  We made ours well in advance and thought it was the best, looking over the Liberty Memorial.

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Our first impressions were fantastic.  With fully-windowed walls, the restaurant is bright and airy, with simple furnishings.  Even better, the service was impeccable.  Every visitor to our table was charming and courteous, even the Water Boy.  First up was complimentary Prosecco (It is always good to be the birthday boy and girl…), and a basket of rolls offered with both honey butter and peppadew butter.  I barely got some of the honey butter…Brandon found it first.  I reviewed the wine list and after getting over my shock at being able to order a single glass of Opus One (Napa Valley, 2001), I decided to keep the $35 and order something more reasonable.  I selected a glass of Penfolds, “Thomas Hylands” (South Eastern Australia, 2008) to try something new and it was very good.  In fact, it was very, very good with my steak (until after the asparagus but that is my own fault).

We ordered the Flash Seared Crab Cake as our first course and found it perfectly meaty, served elegantly over pickled cucumber and pineapple, and topped with a togarashi-coconut sphere.  The sphere scared Brandon and he knocked it off of the crab cake.  It bounced, and that really was enough for him to see to decide he wouldn’t be trying it.  I broke it open and dipped a few bites in the lightly sweet and spicy creamy sauce.

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I was a little disappointed that the menu had changed since my first online perusal, and beef from Morgan Ranch did not appear to still be served.  If I am remembering correctly, most of the steaks were from Imperial Valley in California.  Not a bad thing, just sad for this Nebraska girl.  I didn’t ask our server, but should have.

Determined to actually order Prime beef, I skipped my usual filet (8 oz. at Benton’s) in favor of a 12 oz. Prime Sirloin Steak.  I came for flavor!  I ordered it medium, with a side of Butter Poached Asparagus.  It was cooked perfectly and seasoned even better.  This was one amazing steak.  I know it’s huge, but I ate it all.  I’m tough like that.  Given that the asparagus could have fed a family of 4, I left most of it behind.  They were crisp tender and went well with my steak, but a girl has to prioritize.

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Brandon ordered the 16 oz. Prime Kansas City Strip, and smartly selected the Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, which were our favorite side.  Yukon Gold potatoes are just so creamy anyway, and I suspect a good deal of butter and cream (maybe even buttermilk?) was used in the creation of this dish.

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Dessert was also complimentary (perhaps because of the importance of our birthdays in the culinary world) and there were many good choices on the menu.  We debated the Crème Brulee Trio (three seasonal flavors) and I was excited to see the Mascarpone Cheese Cake (with vanilla and rose scented Anglaise and cherry compote), as well as Baba au Rum (Light raisin studded cake, soaked with rum, served with berries, and finished with a Meyer lemon sabayon sauce), which I’ve never seen anywhere except on the Barefoot Contessa.  But, we were sold on the Bananas Foster on Vanilla Bean Ice Cream for two after watching it prepared at other tables on its traveling station.  Just like the White Chocolate Bread Pudding at Hereford House, which is flambéed tableside with a shot of rum, the restaurant only needs to sell one to get every table to order.  The masses were right…the Bananas Foster was amazing.  In preparing it, the server used a heavy hand with the nutmeg and cinnamon and I really like how it turned out…spicy and rich.  The perfect end to an amazing meal.

We couldn’t help but steal a few more views in each window prior to departing.

Union Station…

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Due North…

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Northeast…

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And then out.  What a great date.  Why don’t we visit Crown Center (and Benton’s Prime) more often?