Executive chef Kevin Nicholls worked on, tweaked and tested, and turned in seven different menus.
Only then did his bosses at the new Parker at the Fontaine consider it perfect for the restaurant’s debut in late 2017. It had a private grand opening party Jan. 23 and reopens to the public for lunch and dinner Jan. 24.
The Fontaine is a joint venture between Davidson Hotels & Resorts in Atlanta and Artemis Real Estate Partners in Chevy Chase, Md.
They took over the former boutique Hotel Sorella nearly a year ago, remodeling and rebranding it to The Fontaine — a Kansas City Hotel. The rooftop restaurant, Rosso at the Hotel Sorella, changed its name to 901 and its lounge as 901 West (to reflect the 901 W. 48th Place address). But that was just temporary.
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The new Parker at The Fontaine is described as a “seasonally driven restaurant serving a progressive take on new American classics rooted in Kansas City soul.”
So the Parker in the name is a nod to hometown jazz legend Charlie Parker. It also features the Yard Bird (one of Parker’s nicknames) sandwich with smoked turkey, maple bacon and avocado puree on sourdough bread, and Parker’s Brick Chicken with mushroom farro and charred broccolini.
“I got a biography and listened to his music,” Nicholls said. “He wanted to play music really well and have fun. We are going to do things the best we can without being pretentious. To do great food and have fun in a place where people feel comfortable.”
So far its three most popular dinner items are its 5-Spice Short Rib (braised in beer by Kansas City’s Torn Label Brewing Co.) with sides of maple yams, baby roasted carrots and charred cipollini onions; its Cedar & Rosemary Salmon with crispy potatoes, braised greens and smoked tomato butter sauce; and the brick chicken. Other entrees include meatloaf, beef pot pie and strip steak with whiskey cipollini onion, scallion tater tots and mushrooms.
The gnocchi appetizer was highly popular during restaurant week. Starters include chicken liver mousse and corn bread with whipped honey cream cheese, garnished with dill and aged cheddar.
“The chicken liver mousse was a recipe passed down from a chef I used to work for and he has passed it down from a chef he worked for, down through the ranks,” Nicholls said. “Why mess with something that is great?”
Nicholls said his in-house spice blend also can be found on several items including the short ribs, the cedar salmon, the Parker Spiced Shrimp and roasted nuts on the Happy Hour menu.
“It has some unexpected things in there,” he said. “Customers say, ‘I love it but I can’t figure out what is in it.’ It is spices that you don’t normally see in a KC barbecue rub.”
The lunch menu offers such items as fried pickles, beef and farro soup, pickled deviled eggs, quinoa and kale power bowls, a meatloaf sandwich, short rib grilled cheese, strip steak and barbecue chicken flatbread.
Desserts include cane sugar donuts, house-made gelato and sorbets, chocolate chip cookie shakes and French macarons.
For happy hour, it offers Polly’s Pop Craft Highballs for $5 (such as the vanilla-infused Rittenhouse Rye with Independence-based Polly’s Pop black cherry soda); $6 signature cocktails, $1 off local draught beers and more.
Nicholls attended culinary school at Johnson County Community College and then trained in the kitchen at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai. He worked at several restaurants in San Francisco most recently at luxury hotel Taj Campton Place.
“When I was in Dubai we went to eat at a hotel every day. That’s what you did,” Nicholls said. “So we want people to know we’re not a hotel that just so happens to have a restaurant in it. We are a restaurant that just so happens to be in a hotel. We’re really excited to show what we can do up here.”