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"I haven't heard any complaints about saltiness," Thorne-Thomsen told me later. "It's usually the opposite. People want things saltier."
And in Kansas City, you have to give people what they want, which may require a little embellishment at Story. The roasted strip steak that I ordered on my second visit to the restaurant was described by the servers as potato-and-short-rib croquettes, which evokes something more complicated than this dish's roasted short ribs with braised swiss chard and hollandaise. Our server did an excellent job of explaining that a lamb "crepinette" (which sounds like something one buys for an infant's nursery) was lamb tenderloin wrapped in house-made lamb sausage, served with crunchy olive falafel balls and a smoky roasted mole.
The fish at Story needs far less explanation, except to say that it might be the restaurant's marquee attraction. The Pacific halibut was delectably moist and drizzled with a smooth lobster butter, and the rainbow trout was delicate and nearly perfect, with an evanescent crispness complemented by a splash of lemon-jalapeño vinaigrette and mashed potatoes. A pale-pink hunk of Pacific king salmon was beautiful to look at but slightly dry the day I ordered it. It arrived perched on something that was described on the menu as a "crab fritter" but was actually a flaccid flapjack.
Among the desserts — the collaboration of Thorne-Thomson and pastry chef Nikki Perez — was the most unusual and delicious spin on German chocolate cake I've ever eaten. It was an extraordinary dark-chocolate cake, made with Callebaut cocoa powder instead of the traditional mahogany baker's sweet chocolate. In lieu of the expected sticky coconut-pecan frosting, the airy layers were separated by a light white-chocolate-and-coconut mousse filling, under a shiny chocolate glaze.
So far, according to Thorne-Thomsen, only one customer has balked at the restaurant's version of a chocolate mousse. The patron was angry not to see a whipped-chocolate confection in a glass goblet, which other restaurants (and buffets) serve. My friend Bob was a bit taken aback by the dessert himself, but after a bite, he fell in love with Story's sweet version. Thorne-Thomsen and Perez's dish looked a bit like oversized Kit Kat bars, with the mousse spread onto a pralinelike feuilletine crust and sliced into bars, served with cherries simmered in port and a scoop of fresh coffee ice cream. It was hard to cut but easy to savor.
The sorbets are house-made as well, as are the marble-sized fried-batter "doughnuts," which drip with vanilla cream and salted caramel.
The service is as polished as the heavy flatware. A couple of the waitstaff also work at Starker's, which is a solid recommendation, and everyone is impressively knowledgeable about the intricacies of Thorne-Thomsen's menu. The chef has said his ingredients are the story behind Story, and his servers have memorized the tale well.
Anyone eating here may hear more stories than just the chef's. With so many hard surfaces in the room, it's a noisy place, especially on weekends. It's easy to raise your voice to compete with the din, and sound bounces out of control. Each time I dined here, I heard fascinating snippets of conversation. My ears particularly perked up when I heard the name of a friend of mine being bandied about. I strained to hear the details, but the monologist got all sotto voce when it came time to reveal the most scandalous plot points. Not that it mattered. I already knew the ending of that story.