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In the Crossroads, Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room turns on the charm.



Avocado carrot salad

 

   Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room is every bit as sexy as you’ve heard.

   You have, of course, heard of it. It has been one of the most hotly anticipated restaurants to arrive in Kansas City this year. In early April, chef and co-owner Michael Corvino, formerly the executive chef at The American Restaurant, opened the doors to the space located at 1830 Walnut St. inside Corrigan Station in the Crossroads Arts District.

   The Supper Club is the main dining room — 74 seats cast at spacious slate-gray tables fashioned out of recycled paper, stationed before a cool purple-hued stage that welcomes musicians every night. (A glass wall separates the Supper Club from a private dining room in the back of the restaurant, with another 50 seats.) The ceiling is high, and out of the shadows you’ll notice impressive wall murals of ravens in flight — “corvino” is Italian for raven — done by local artist Jeremy Collins. The long bar features a window into the kitchen, where guests can watch oysters being plated and fingerling fries being dusted with grated green garlic. The servers are uniformed simply in all-black collared shirts, many of them familiar faces from The American — and they all seem to be thrumming with a quiet, eager professionalism.

   Sleek and modern decor aside, the true sex appeal of Corvino Supper Club is in its food menu. Servers will warmly explain that its premise is “social sharing” — this is a hipper and more accurate way of saying “tapas,” a dining trend that has steadily been gaining traction in Western restaurants over the last several years. You’ll choose several items from the menu — its dishes organized in a progression from light to heavy, starting with a bread-and-butter plate and ending with a 12-ounce Wagyu beef rib-eye — and afterward, you’ll relinquish control of the evening to your server and the kitchen. Trust that your food will arrive as it is meant to; errors at Corvino Supper Club are rare.

   You’ll be faced with some tough decisions when it comes to picking the plates. The beet toast ($10) is a nod to the ubiquitous Instagram avocado toast craze of 2016, except Corvino’s version — with its smear of split pea puree, drizzle of creamy yogurt and artful smattering of quinoa — could be enough to reinvigorate the genre.

  The carrot and avocado salad ($12) eats as beautifully as it looks, a perfect marriage of rich flavors and textures. Carrots are cooked and arranged with carefully selected mint leaves and pine nuts, and there’s a big, sparkling hit of acidity thanks to Corvino’s house-made black lime, pulverized and sprinkled liberally over the dish.

 

Chicken liver mousse, whipped chicken liver ($8) from Corvino Supper Club - 435 Magazine

Whipped chicken liver

 

   Do not skip the whipped chicken liver ($8). In fact, order two of these right away and save yourself the heartbreak of only getting one square inch of this cracker, spread with a chicken liver mousse so airy and delicate it must have been spun from the clouds cherubs take naps on. There’s a whisper of the Cognac and port wine that went into this preparation, a surprising match for the salty sardines arranged diagonally with flecks of crystallized honey and translucent radish shavings.

   You’ll ask yourself if you really need the fried brandade ($10), and yes, you really do. Corvino salts the trim from the black cod he gets and breads it with house-made sourdough crumbs; they’re excellent even before you’ve thoroughly coated them with the silky tarragon aioli. (This dish, by the way, is a nod to Corvino’s mentor, James Beard Award-nominated chef Bruno Davaillon, whose favorite dish is brandade.)

   Try to control your emotions when you encounter the foie gras torchon ($18). This classic recipe is faithfully recreated here, and the torchon meets your tongue like a dancer nailing the landing. With gratitude, you’ll notice that there is no wan slice of brioche or dollop of jam on the plate; Corvino’s dish is more interesting than that. Puffed wild rice adds a playful crunch, and a spoonful of it — plus lemon curd and raw honey — form a waterfall over the torchon.

   At some point, you’ll decide it’s time for a bottle of wine. Perhaps someone at the table mentioned it in passing; perhaps the server noticed your eyes lingering over the list between bites. The sommelier, Ross Jackson, will appear, ready to be useful or prepared to be dismissed, all smiles either way. You can trust his judgment: the wine list is well-crafted, with a selection just deep enough to feel sufficient and brief enough not to overwhelm — and with prices to satisfy all levels, from $30 to $300 a bottle. Jackson understands vino the way you understand that you need king crab in your life.

   And, oh, your life is lacking without that king crab ($25). A buttery miso mayo clings coquettishly to hunks of crab legs, and even though the match is a no-brainer, Corvino makes this dish exciting. Same goes for the French-meets-Asian rock shrimp and mussels ($18), where emulsified curry butter melts into the Shaoxing wine mussel liquid for a taste so rich you’ll end up slurping it out of the bowl.

 

Corvino Supper Club Crossroads Fried chicken

Fried chicken

 

   You’d be lying if you said you didn’t want to fight your dinner guests for the last morsel of fried chicken ($12), breaded with buttermilk, rice flour, kelp and nori. The plate comes with several diligently chosen lettuce leaves for you to fashion a wrap, which is critical if you plan to enjoy the fermented hot chili sauce that has become sous chef Andy McCormick’s calling card. (You’ll be sorely tempted to abscond with the little bottle of liquid heat — which is probably why Corvino has smartly left the cap off.)

   Black cod ($40) is Corvino’s favorite fish, and it is reverently marinated in miso and sake before roasting. You’ve never experienced whipped uni butter before this dish, but you know you will dream of it for days and weeks and months.

   The grandest dish, the American Wagyu rib-eye ($65), is prepared country-style — seared in a cast-iron skillet with butter, garlic and thyme. Corvino has strong feelings about cookware: “The last thing I was going to put in my kitchen was a gas grill,” he says. “We cook on cast iron, black steel and, if we’re going to grill, we use Japanese charcoal.” You’ll stare down at those 12 glorious ounces of beefy conviction, and it may be the first time all night you’ve been grateful that you’re required to share. The huitlacoche steak sauce has been in development with Corvino for the last three years, and who knew that what some call “corn smut” could deliver such an exquisite, smoky flavor?

   The rib-eye might have pushed you beyond the brink of “comfortably full” to “send help and sweatpants.” You’ll want to pause — probably with one of the signature cocktails, like the Paradise Drive ($12), featuring silver tequila, absinthe, dry curaçao and meringue — before you consider your next move.

 

Late night burger and stout sundae from Corvino Supper Club Kansas City 435 Magazine

Late night burger (left) and Stout Sundae (right)

 

   And if it’s 10 p.m. and your next move isn’t the cheeseburger ($8) from the late-night menu, buddy, you are getting it wrong. Two thin chuck patties meet a by-the-book garlic aioli, caramelized onion, super-sour dill pickles and muenster cheese between a house-made sesame seed bun. Why is this so good? What did they do to it back there? Should you order another one? These are all the questions echoed around your table.

   If you refrain from ordering a second cheeseburger — and you would be a stronger-willed individual than I — it’s because you’ve opted for the stout sundae ($10) instead. Pastry chef Amanda Schroeder (the former assistant to Nick Wesemann, also of The American) plays up her Irish heritage in this dessert, playfully arranging little Legos of stout-infused sponge cake with ping-pong balls of Irish cream ice cream.

   For your inner 6-year-old, go ahead and get that ice cream sandwich ($8). It’ll take you back to sweaty summer afternoons when the only relief you understood was the paper-wrapped one that came from a squat truck with Vaudeville music.

   You’ll notice, perhaps, that Corvino’s menu is decidedly lacking in one thing: ego. Global flavors are represented simultaneously in single dishes, but Corvino knows better than to call them “fusion.” On a menu that can seem disparate — fried chicken next to foie gras torchon next to brisket bolognese next to oysters with a dashi mignonette — the plates are unified by a singular vision. They’re relatable even when they’re unexpected.

   “To me, food should be extremely approachable, but it should be interesting in other ways,” Corvino says. “These aren’t ordinary dishes, but they shouldn’t scare anyone away, either.”

   It’s clear that Corvino is cooking the food that makes him happy — though this is not necessarily the food that comes to mind when you think “fine dining.”

   Which is to say that Corvino Supper Club is not fine dining, not exactly. There are no white tablecloths, but your server still knows better than to show you the back of her hand when she sets down your drink. And although menu items are economically priced, it’ll be easy for you and three of your friends to end up spending $100 a person on the food alone. Some items — like the whipped chicken liver — are suited to sharing with no more than two people, so ordering doubles will be necessary. For diners who are looking for an experience — not just a meal — this will not be a problem.

   “We just want it to be exciting for people,” Corvino says. “We want it to be social and fun. It’s a super enjoyable way to eat because there are less rules, and it’s all about tasting delicious food.”

   The Tasting Room will not be quite as casual. Dinners here will feast on a two-and-a-half-hour, 5-course affair, reminiscent of Corvino’s final days at The American. The menu is set at $95, with supplemental offerings, such as wine pairings, starting at $55.

   To get to the Tasting Room, you’ll pass through a hidden door behind the host stand, where you’ll settle into one of 18 seats in the intimate room in full view of the kitchen and a plating counter. (This is where Corvino will finish the dishes with his chef de cuisine, Dina Butterfield, who was his sous chef at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas.) Here, the wood floors are painted a matte black, tables are a light walnut, and the dinnerware is custom-made by local ceramic artists Emily Reinhardt (the Object Enthusiast) and Erica Iman (KC Urban Potters). Other than the glow of the kitchen, the only lighting comes from the theatrical spotlights centered above the tables, haloing over plate settings.

   “As it turned to night, we wanted this room to just fall away,” says Christina Corvino, Michael’s wife and co-owner. “We want the only things you see to be the food in front of you, Michael arranging the plates and the kitchen behind him. Everything else just kind of goes away.”

   It is remarkably easy for you to forget the world beyond Corvino Supper Club. By the end of your meal, after the parade of plates has concluded and as you are savoring the final sips of some celebratory Champagne (you ordered Champagne to finish, of course), the seduction will be absolute. You’ll be back — and soon.

   1830 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 832-4564, corvino.com. Tuesday through Thursday, 4-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. 

Michael Corvino Corvino Supper Club Crossroads

Michael Corvino

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