This weekend, chef Emmanual Langlade and his wife, Megan - as well as the entire staff of the Aixois Brasserie at 1006 Walnut - will be in celebration mode. Proving the naysayers wrong, the Aixois Brasserie will fete the first anniversary of the downtown boite this Friday and Saturday with live enterainment and a reverse happy hour from 9 p.m. to midnight featuring $5 glasses of house wine, $3 well cocktails, an array of small plates priced from $3 to $7, and the introduction of the new Parisian-inspired cocktail list.
Muscular bartender David Dillistin, a transplant to Kansas City from Afghanistan, not Paris (he was a civilian researcher for the Department of Defense), will be muddling fresh blueberries with VSOP cognac and creme de violette to create one of the Brasserie's new signature cocktails, an Imperial Blueberry Fizz, topped with champagne.
The beverage is a pleasant accompaniment to the house-made pate or a chilled shrimp cocktail, but don't ask for the foie gras. The goose-liver delicacy remains a popular dish at Aixois Bistro, the Brookside restaurant that the Langlades opened in 2001, but patrons at the downtown restaurant simply weren't ordering it, so Emmanuel took it off the Brasserie's menu.
"It's been a real learning experience for us," says Megan Langlade. "What does very well in Brookside often does not do well downtown. And vice versa. The clientele of the restaurants is very different."
And if the Brookside Aixois is, during the lunch hour, a favorite of the ladies-who-lunch set, the downtown version is all about business: "From noon to 1:30 p.m., the dining room is packed with people in suits," says Megan Langlade. "At night, it's a much younger crowd."
I asked Langlade if hitting the one-year mark means that Aixois Brasserie is a success. "The jury is still out," she says. "We've been building up our clientele in a slow, steady fashion. When you do something out of love, you want to see it work. We knew, from the beginning, that this project wouldn't be a hit coming right out of the gate. A downtown restaurant is very different. I'd love to see more dinner business there, but business is building and it's building well. So we're happy with what we have created. Downtown Kansas City is a very cool place. We just need to help more people find us."
To help do that, the Langlades are planning to expand the happy-hour specials created for this weekend's birthday celebration into a regular happening for work-weary downtowners who might crave a Champs-Elysees (VSOP cognac, lemon juice, green chartreuse, simple syrup and Angostura bitters) - and an award-winning hamburger - on their way home.