Not so long ago, Broadmoor culinary graduate and Bluestem alum Joe West could only dream of the day he would own his own restaurant — an upscale concept he called Kusshi, which means “precious” in Japanese.
Now West, who turns 30 years old this month, is in the process of opening a brick-and-mortar version of Kusshi in the midtown area. The lease is signed and West projects a late-April opening, but he isn’t ready just yet to reveal the exact location.
He hopes to keep diners in suspense until the last possible moment, similar to the way he has been operating his “Secret Sunday” Kusshi pop-ups in “secret locations.”
“I want people to talk about it and just wonder where it’s at,” he says. “I think it would be really cool to continue that same kind of mystique.”
When The Star wrote a story about West in August 2015, West was still eager to woo investors. He initially met his co-owner and business partner, Erik Borger, via Facebook. Borger is owner of Il Lazzarone, a Neapolitan pizzeria with locations in the River Market and St. Joseph.
“He took note of what I was doing,” West says, and the two men hit it off. “It’s really been fun. We both excited about the same things.”
In keeping with West’s original vision, expect the 3,000-square-foot Kusshi to be “intimate,” “luxurious” and “pricey,” featuring 15- to 18-course prix-fixe meals with a selection sake, beer and standard or premium wine pairings.
“We’re really focused on quality and luxury ingredients. We’re not going to cut any corners,” West says, adding shaved truffles, caviar and oysters will figure into some of the more extravagant dishes.
The space will be “a lot of gray stone and texture,” with lighting designed to spotlight a diner’s dish. Service will be precise but “charming and whimsical.”
If you’re more price conscious, Borger and West are also partners of Komatsu, a 235-seat, 6,000-square-foot restaurant at 3951 Broadway. Their more casual ramen and Japanese-style pub is expected to open mid-April.
Komatsu’s menu will be comfort-food driven and feature a large variety of ramens as well as an extensive appetizer menu that includes steamed pork buns and yaktori, skewered and grilled chicken.
West has spent the last 10 months hosting pop-up dining events around Kansas City and he says keeping Kusshi alive has not been easy: At one point, he had to sell his car to keep going.
“I feel like it’s a big win for Kansas City to see a pop-up succeed,” West says.
Jill Wendholt Silva is a James Beard award-winning food editor, restaurant critic and blog curator. Reach her on Twitter @kcstarfood and @chowtownkc and Instagram @jillwsilva and @chowtownkc.