I have to admit, back in January it was hard for me to fill in the blanks of what would become Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room.
The most prominent features in the 1920s Corrigan building (these days referred to as Corrigan Station) at 1830 Walnut St. in the Crossroads Arts District were the 16-foot ceilings supported by giant weight-bearing columns and the slanted floor, which presumably allowed previous Nelly Don garment or postal workers to use gravity to push bins of fabric or letters with ease.
Even with the floor leveled, there was 5,320 square feet of yawning, unfinished space. That day, chef Michael Corvino, formerly at the helm of The American Restaurant (now closed), and his wife and business partner, Christina, stood on the roughed-in wooden stage and excitedly colored in their vision as a small group of designers, architects, investors and staff toasted to the restaurant’s future success.
I was grateful to a member of the Hufft Projects design team who narrated the barren spaces for me. Over the next three months, I was granted a behind-the-scenes look at the carefully choreographed production.
The result: A comfortably handsome, minimalist space with a muted gray-and-black palette, theatrical lighting by a lighting designer who has worked with Quixotic, and an arsenal of plates, cups and bowls in earthy, organic textures to showcase the chef’s brand of casual, shareable, seasonal fare.
I was on hand as the Corvinos chose rough-hewn gray plates from Erica Iman at KC Urban Potters for the tasting room. That’s also where I was introduced to Michael’s chef de cuisine, Dina Butterfield, who had just moved to Kansas City from Dallas. Many key staffers are from Michael’s time at The American, and one day in February they headed to The Roasterie for a cupping to choose a flavor profile.
Last week — as a harpist plucked soothing strains, a bartender shook a cocktail tumbler and family and friends slipped into their seats for the first performance — I hovered in the hidden 18-seat tasting room (opens May 1) that was doing double-duty as a photo studio for the production of website images.
A painter touched up a smudge on a door, and an electrician climbed a tall ladder and fiddled with the recessed lighting. All the while, bartenders arranged bottles around the 35-foot bar, and servers polished wineglasses in the main dining room.
In the spacious, well-lit kitchen space — notable for an abundance of natural light — staff began to quietly fire orders. I hung out near the cooks in the kitchen and watched staff plate dishes rich in texture and color. They were a far cry from the formality Corvino previously delivered with his famed tasting menus, which were intricate in execution and heavier on the wallet.
The bulk of Corvino’s new menu is priced at $8 to $21, with a few pricier entrees, like black cod and sea urchin ($40) and American wagyu rib with huitlacoche sauce ($65).
So far I have tasted a few of the whimsical, shareable appetizers: beets and mashed split peas on rye toast garnished with yogurt, quinoa pearls and pea shoots;; koshihikari rice with Parmesan dashi and scallion butter; and fried chicken spiced with nori-kombu powder with butter lettuce and hot sauce.
“Selfishly, we designed a restaurant that we wanted to be at all the time,” Christina said in January.
This is a first look at couple’s vision. Later this month, I’ll reveal how the elements for one of Kansas City’s most anticipated restaurants came together in an exclusive profile, with photographs and video by The Star’s Tammy Ljungblad.