If the venerable Accurso’s Italian Food & Drink (see review) is a throwback to the Eisenhower era, the Plaza’s brand-new re:Verse (618 Ward Parkway) celebrates a style that was born during the same time.
The brainchild of 35-year-old restaurateur James Taylor (who also owns La Bodega), the sophisticated bar and eatery opened last week in the space once occupied by Loy Edge‘s unnamed restaurant, Edge installed the $60,000 tiled floor, the only architectural feature that lingers from his short-lived venture. Now there’s a stainless steel door, Mandarin red ceilings, slate tiles along the window and steel panels around the bar. Sloping white baffled panels hold fiberglass inserts, the better to cut down on the noise levels bouncing off of those tiled floors.
It’s all as sleek as a fin-tailed ’59 Cadillac, though that’s not exactly the kind of car you’d have seen Beat icons Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso tooling around in during their rebellious youth. At re:Verse, the Beat Generation is more than an inspiration — it’s an affectation. On its white cardboard margin, the dinner menu hosts a rambling discussion of Beathood, including the pronouncement that “the Beat Generation changed us more than any other twentieth century movement.” Now there’s a bit of hyperbole open for some lively debate over far-out cocktails — a Gilligan’s Island perhaps?
Servers roam the dining room in black shirts and pants (black berets would have been even more “Beat”), presenting chef Mark Zukaitis‘ inventions for young hipsters, most of them probably clueless about the work of the Beat legends listed on the menu (although Marlon Brando — that crazy Beat actor — might garner a flicker of recognition). Zukaitis has also created 24 “small plates,” ranging from $4.25 for a dish of “olives, feta and chili ensalade” to $12.25 for an assortment of “crudo fresco” — anchovies, salt cod, smoked salmon, capers and a grilled baguette.
The idea is to give patrons not just a meal, Taylor says, but “a minivacation.” There’s no required reading before visiting the restaurant (which doesn’t take reservations), but in spite of William Burroughs‘ unquestionable Beat status, at re:Verse, there’s no naked lunch.
And continuing on a literary note, storyteller Scheherazade may have invented the character Ali Baba, but restaurateur Nazeeh Hajeeh has adopted the name for his Middle Eastern restaurant, formerly called the PromiseLand Café (7630 Wornall Road). The old Taco Bell building (Hajeeh claims it was the city’s first) has recently been repainted in a shade of merlot, and the restaurant’s interior — all mirrors, lacy curtains and a draped-fabric ceiling — could pass as a Harlequin romance novel harem.
Hajeeh founded the PromiseLand Café, but an unexpected three-month trip to his home in Gaza, Egypt, earlier this year hurt his business. “I had other people running the place who didn’t do things my way. My regular customers stopped coming,” he says. Hajeeh decided to reinvent his restaurant with a new name, a new look and a revised menu: “I took the beef dishes off the menu, expanded the vegetarian choices and added more pasta dishes. I now have a sweet pasta, with angel hair noodles sautéed in brown sugar, honey, nuts and deep-fried banana.”
Even if it sounds more like a dessert than a dinner, it’s cool, man.