Friday, November 9, 2012

Anton's Taproom & Restaurant is still a work in progress

Posted By on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 3:45 PM

Antons Taproom has a great menu, its just not fully operational yet.
  • Anton's Taproom has a great menu. It's just not fully operational yet.

I've never seen a menu quite like the one currently being handed to patrons at Anton's Taproom, the saloon, butcher shop and restaurant (and art gallery, I suppose) that restaurateur Anton Kotar opened last month at 1610 Main, in the 19th-century building last occupied by Daddy's Lounge, a gay "bear" bar.

A single legal-sized sheet of paper, the current Anton's menu has starters, salads and entrees listed in both red and gray type. Don't order the dishes in gray type, yet.

"The red items are the things that the kitchen is preparing now," explained the bartender, Chelsea. "The items in the gray type are forthcoming."

As in, when? "In a couple of weeks," she said. "The steaks are still dry-aging in the basement."

No, says Kotar. "The dishes in the gray type will be available in a couple of days."

The MIA dishes on the menu include seared diver scallops, a broiled bone-in pork chop, beer-battered tilapia and chips (more on this later) and fried chicken. And those grass-fed, dry-aged steaks.

There are things one can eat right now in the venue, however, including a cheese and charcuterie plate, tempura-fried pickles, salads and a wonderful short rib sandwich topped with caramelized onion and gruyere cheese on hearty artisinal bread baked by New Traditionalist Bread's Chris Glen. And burgers. The executive chef is Phillip Cline, formerly the sous chef for Extra Virgin.

Celebrated pastry chef Carter Holton is creating the desserts for Anton's Taproom. Last night's dolce selections included an outstanding vanilla bean panna cotta served with a scoop of brown-butter ice cream, tatin apples and a dollop of salted caramel sauce. The other choices were a pumpkin chiffon tart sided with a wedge of gloriously spicy gingerbread and a dark-chocolate ganache with saffron-poached pears, almond nougatine and a pear sorbet. Of course, they're wildly creative: Holton also teaches the art of pastry at the Art Institutes International, in Lenexa.

Holton gave me a tour of the basement level, which has enough walk-in coolers to outfit the White House, as well as tidy glass-enclosed cases (they look like museum displays) filled with baby lettuces and herbs growing under artificial lights, and a bubbling aquaponic tank for raising tilapia. (It didn't look that much bigger than my bathtub, but what the hell do I know about aquaponics?) The wine cellar is down there, too. And a meat grinder.

The front room, where the bears used to growl at each other (during the more rustic Daddy's era), is now as snazzy as hell: The original wooden floor is tricked out in a black-and-white harlequin pattern and pretty little chandeliers and a big shiny bar with 72 beers — and one root beer, Minnesota-brewed 1919 Classic American Draft Root Beer — on tap. Patrons can dine in this room or in the adjacent butcher-shop section, where the combination of the harsh lighting and display cases filled with bloody slabs of beef makes the room seem as coldly clinical as an operating room.

More seating — and an art gallery — are on the second floor.

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