The Antler Room at Hospital Hill, 2506 Holmes, is a tapas-style restaurant that features seasonal ingredients, which means a menu that changes frequently according to the chef’s whims.
I stopped in recently to check out the current offerings (note: the restaurant will be closed next week while the owners are on vacation).
Chef Nicholas Goellner opened The Antler Room at the end of 2016 with his wife, Leslie Newsam Goellner. The couple, who have Kansas City roots, met while working at The Rieger. The Antler Room pays homage to a famous 1930s venue in the West Bottoms.
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The couple have each worked at top-tier restaurants in other cities — including a three-month stay in Copenhagen, where Nick took an unpaid kitchen stint at Noma, currently considered the world’s best restaurant.
If the Goellner surname sounds familiar, chances are that’s because Nick’s sister is well-known pastry chef Natasha Goellner of Mulberry & Mott and the food truck Cirque du Sucre. She makes The Antler Room’s desserts.
Here are my five takeaways.
▪ The vibe: The room was boisterous and loud on a Friday night, with sound echoing off the stone flooring, high ceilings and garage door front. The energy and diversity of age, gender and race said dinner party more than romantic date night.
If pure fuel is what you seek, a small bites tasting menu might not be a fit. But if you’re looking to impress on Instagram, this is ideal.
My dining guests were Chow Town blogger Craig Jones and his wife/social media assistant, Gay, who were loving all the photo ops, and chef Carmen Cabia of El Tenedor, who exclaimed with the presentation of each dish.
▪ Don’t-miss duck: The Aylesbury duck is the priciest item on the spring menu at $44, but it also was one of the most delicious and, in the end, economical items. The duck takes 30 minutes to prepare and serves two to four.
It is initially presented at the table on a serving platter. The impressive mahogany body is carefully scored with a knife, which creates slits for the fat to render out. When the picture snapping has died down, a server whisks it back to the kitchen, where it is sliced and plated, then returned to the table.
At my table, we each received a quarter of the duck, still ruby-red in the center. Our server suggested we dig in with our hands to enjoy our duck “tacos.” The slices come with grilled flatbreads, delicate scallion sprouts to tuck inside and a bowl of fermented honey with a tiny spoon to drizzle it over all. My fingers got so sticky I could have used a wet-nap, but I wound up licking my fingers instead.
▪ Most Instagram-able dish: Carpaccio is usually associated with raw meat or fish pounded thin and served as an appetizer. But with the notion of vegetable butchery catching on, Goellner uses the thinly sliced squash in a carpaccio presentation that’s the best of both worlds.
He turns squash slices into bright yellow “flower” petals that radiate out from the button center of foie gras. The dish ($12) includes a spring halo of edible flowers and nasturtium leaves for a simple yet stunning presentation. The flavors and textures — including pistachio, fried leeks and crouton — had us parrying with our forks for more.
▪ Yummy yuca: Fried yuca co-stars with octopus ($17) here. Yuca, also known as cassava or manioc root, is a South American staple. It is similar to a potato but crispier and creamier. It can be boiled, baked or fried. Alternating pieces of octopus and yuca are swiped through white bean puree and nduja, a Calabrian pork spread made with red peppers and spices.
▪ Exotic ice cream: You may have had kulfi ($8), an ice cream made from condensed and evaporated milk, at an Indian restaurant. Pastry chef Natasha Goellner stays true to the flavors of the cuisine with notes of jasmine and cardamom but adds a dramatically beautiful spin on the presentation with crushed pistachios, edible flowers and an orange blossom yogurt.
Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor and Chow Town blog curator. Tweet her at @kcstarfood. She’s also on Instagram at @jillwsilva and on Facebook.
The Antler Room
2506 Holmes. 5-10 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 816-605-1967. theantlerroomkc.com.