For more than 15 years, Steve Nguyen wanted to open a restaurant in Kansas City featuring the Hawaiian cuisine he grew up on.
His mother moved to Hawaii from Vietnam in the early 1970s and 22 years ago opened a to-go operation serving poke, a raw fish salad with Hawaiian seasonings and seaweed. That operation is still going strong.
But when Nguyen was finally ready to open his Hawaiian restaurant, he hesitated, afraid it might not be popular enough in Kansas City to succeed. So his new Bistro 913 — which opened in April at 7702 Shawnee Mission Parkway in Overland Park — also serves Vietnamese cuisine using family recipes that he has made his own.
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“I was worried about it being in the Midwest, and I needed to pay my bills,” he said. “But it is 2016, and people are catching on to other cultures. People are coming in and trying Hawaiian food for the first time. Or they have been to Hawaii and come back and haven’t found the same quality until they come here.”
On the Hawaiian menu there’s the Ahi Poke Trio. Customers can select three seafood items like Ahi tuna, scallops or octopus, and several flavors such as spicy Korean-style; miso; spicy California-style with avocado; and Hawaiian with seasoned Hawaiian rock salt, chili pepper flakes, white and green onions and Hawaiian seaweed.
The Hawaiian menu also includes roast pork belly sliders and seasoned soybeans, as well as the Hawaiian teriyaki burger, grilled cod and Korean short ribs.
As for the Vietnamese menu, look for Banh Tom Chien, deep-fried sweet potatoes and shrimp served on a bed of lettuce with a side of house fish sauce; the Chim Cut, fried quail on chopped lettuce with pickled carrots and daikon; the Goi Ga, chicken salad with cabbage, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro and fish sauce, topped with peanuts; lettuce wraps and pot stickers. There also is a selection of noodle soups, stir-fried noodles, fried rice, vermicelli, jasmine rice dishes, and beef, chicken and shrimp dishes.
Now he worries that the restaurant is too popular to keep up with demand, with the dining room packed many nights as he’s still building staff.
“The Vietnamese has been the bulk of the sales, but the Hawaiian is catching up,” Nguyen said.
New York Dawg Pound had formerly operated in the space.
Foodie food truck
Corey Schelp, his wife, Maddy Bliss-Schelp, and Greg Hopkins, all Shawnee residents, started a food truck this month with a mission: offer a twist on old favorites so customers can have the higher quality of a sit-down restaurant but as quick, or quicker, than fast food.
Schelp handles operations for The Casual Foodie, Bliss-Schelp handles marketing while also taking care of the couple’s 1-year-old son, Elijah, and Hopkins is the chef. They try to source from local farms and butchers when they can.
Menu items include wings like Dr Pepper BBQ or PB&J, jerk chicken or ground beef nachos, a variety of tacos including blackened fish, and sliders like Southwest ground beef or pork banh mi.
The three partners have worked in the restaurant industry for more than a decade each.
“We had the experience to do a made-from-scratch kitchen, so we decided to do something on a smaller scale,” Schelp said. “This is the first step toward a brick-and-mortar restaurant.”