The dividing line between jumpin’ and demure is a blur in Park Place, our vibrant shopping and food mecca in Leawood.
But you already knew that.
It was dusk when Tastebud and I easily entered this trendy locale.
“Something’s going on at Mestizo,” nodded Tastebud, eyeballing the hoopla we could hear emanating from Aarón Sanchez’ hideaway across the street.
“It’s summer,” I muttered as we entered the hushed — at least for the moment — environs of 801 Chophouse.
With no preconceived notion of finding anything but decorum this was, after all, considered to be a tippy-top destination steakhouse in Kansas City.
A gracious welcome gave us a second to absorb the lovely surroundings. Beautiful bar, white starched tablecloths, snug booths, photos of prized steers lining the hallway — here’s a true cowtown palace without being glitzy.
801 Chophouse General Manager Sheri Osborn showed us into the dining room where a golden ox holds court like an American idol.
I could tell this wasn’t Outback’s meat locker.
Osborn handed us over to Christopher, a very capable chap with credentials from JP’s Wine Bar, Bristol and Capitol Grille. Not bad.
“We’re definitely a destination restaurant for a business dinner or for someone you absolutely need to impress,” he said.
That may apply to us.
Completely secure with that statement, he then detailed how the medium, in this case rare to pretty pink, is the message.
The restaurant was started by Jimmy and Kevin Lynch in Des Moines, Iowa. With only four locations, KC boasts two — Park Place and Power and Light.
We started to nibble the bread.
Alex Shifman, amused that I know his parents, is now grown up and staking his claim as executive chef in the 801 Chophouse Leawood kitchen.
We were still nibbling.
“I think you should leave room,” Christopher cautioned as Tastebud dragged slabs of butter across the bread.
“We’re hungry,” she piped.
“I have a feeling you’ll regret that statement,” I said turning to the moment at hand when a trio of appetizers appeared.
We were thrilled to see a mini-lobster corn dog ($13) sided with tastes of a Down Home Sautéed Jumbo Shrimp ($17) and Maryland Lump Crab Cake ($17).
Christopher acknowledged, “Since Des Moines is corn country, why not continue the novelty?”
Fine by me, as long as I don’t have to ride the merry-go-round or ring toss any stuffed animal.
I kept thinking, when the barnyard is presented, we’ll both be stuffed animals.
Along with the apps, we sampled the 801 Chophouse Salad ($12). And then a cart laden with a range of USDA Prime cuts from filet ($40), single-cut prime ($39), double-cut lamb chops ($42) to Duroc pork chops ($40) rolled in.
I figured people come here for the fork-tender meat then expect the following: juicy, ruby, marbled ... literally a jubilee of taste.
Tastebud expounded between bites, “How could you not love this? The only thing between this and heaven is ... ”
“The hash browns, mac and cheese, fresh asparagus, gnocchi, baked cream spinach, wild mushrooms with garlic and Boursin cheese?” I interjected. Sides weigh in from $9 to $17.
I puffed, determined to plow through this richness.
“So what’s the difference between a KC and NY Strip?” I asked.
“There’s a number of different stories but it’s either bone-in or boneless (KC has the bone),” said Christopher.
Then I’ll make no bones about it, this food is a solid salute to regionalism.
Except there’s quite a stream of fish on the menu: Canadian oysters, fresh fish like a hunky piece of Alaskan halibut I tried ($34), lobster, crab, scallops and pasta peppered with beef tenderloin tips ($30).
Finally you push back and Jessica the pastry chef shows up.
“Go away,” I mocked.
In short order she delivered her latest concoction, fried chocolate chip cookie dough. There’s a saying in Hebrew, “Dayenu” that aptly applies. It means, “If they’d only brought us a crumb, it would’ve been enough.”
Too late. A white chocolate brownie, key lime pie and a piña colada sorbet ($9-12) were presented. Enough to kill Tastebud and me with no smoking gun in sight.
“Told you,” says Christopher. “Now, aren’t you glad I took away the bread?”
We were too full to smile.
801 Chophouse is solidly built on big, bold taste.
You can’t wimp out.
But you can leave with a to-go bag. Everyone does.
11616 Ash St.
Gloria Gale is an Overland Park-based food writer. “On the Menu” is not a restaurant review; rather it is a summary of dining out in Johnson County and Kansas City.
photos: Steve Puppe