Coming south of the Plaza: Australian restaurant, Chinese BBQ-dumplings-noodles concept

Less than two years after opening their Australian bakery and cafe downtown, the owners of Banksia are expanding with two restaurants just south of the Country Club Plaza.

“We do a lot of office catering downtown and there are a number of multistoried office buildings there,” said Banksia CEO Robert Joseph of the new location, in the 4800 Main building. “And it is right on the doorstep of the greater Brookside neighborhoods. Then you have the after-school moms and kids, the breakfast, lunch, brunch crowd on the weekends.”

The second Banksia is scheduled to open at 4800 Main St., Suite 103, in early 2020. It will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and also will have a full-service bar. The 2,300-square-foot space will hold about 90 people in the dining room, bar and coffee bar.

The downtown location did a three-month pop-up late last year to test the dinner menu, focusing on shared plates.

“It is a very typical menu in Australia, tapas-style if you will, and it was very well received,” said Joseph, founder and partner in Banksia with his wife, Kate, and Erika Vikor.

The original location at 105 W. Ninth St. was inspired by the cafes in the partners’ native Australia.

“Elevated cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Then we put our own creative spin on them,” he said.

Banksia’s popular breakfast items (served all day) include ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter, caramelized bananas and fresh strawberries; and corn, zucchini and cilantro fritters topped with avocado, refried beans, fried egg, bacon and pan-roasted cherry tomatoes.

Lunch includes Cuban Confit Pork & Cider Braised Cabbage sandwiches on bread baked in-house, and the Moroccan Salad with Israeli couscous, arugula, roast pumpkin, marinated chickpeas, ruby grapefruit, grilled halloumi, pomegranate and tamarind vinaigrette.

It also has Australian pies, sausage rolls, quiche and pizzas.

“The food is very popular in Australia but not here, and that’s the point,” Joseph said. “We call it the ‘look of confusion’ when they are standing there reading the blackboard. But they say they are experiencing Australia without having to get on a plane.”

The original location has been a destination draw, with some regulars driving 30 to 40 miles. And business has spiked since it was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” this month.

The partners also will open Duck & Roll in a 2,500-square-foot spot at 4800 Main St., Suite 102, next door to the new Banksia.

Larkburger formerly occupied the space but pulled out of the Kansas City market.

It will be open for lunch and dinner daily, serving items in three categories:

Chinese barbecue (slow-roasted, complex flavors) including Peking Duck, roasted ”peasant” chicken, Char Siu Pork, and caramelized pork belly.

A variety of dumplings.

A wok bar. Customers will select a base (soup, noodles or rice), a protein, and a sauce, then watch as the ingredients are fired on the wok.

Duck & Roll will seat about 50 people and offer carry-out and delivery.

“I do a lot of business in Hong Kong, and I loved the hawker food stores where one shop specializes in dumplings, one specializes in Peking duck, one specializes in Chinese barbecue, one specializes in noodles,” Joseph said. “So you would buy little plates and put them together. We are bringing all of those together in one concept, Duck & Roll.”

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Joyce Smith has covered restaurant and retail news for The Star since 1989 under the brand Cityscape. She appreciates news tips.