Beauty Is Everything

Love may be a many-splendored thing, but not always in the restaurant business. It took thirteen months for newlyweds Emmanuel and Megan Langlade to open Aixois (see review), from their initial proposal to the night they served their first dinner. But it might take more time for long-married chefs Michael Smith and Debbie Gold — formerly of the American Restaurant — to open their planned restaurant, 40 Sardines.

Negotiations to turn a graffiti-scrawled yellow-brick building at 200 Southwest Trafficway into 40 Sardines were canned last month. “We’re in lease negotiations now with another space in the same neighborhood,” says Smith. “We want to be in the Crossroads district.”

“The deal fell through,” says the building’s owner, Richard Ng of the Bo Ling’s restaurant empire. “Now I’m going to either lease it to other people or possibly open a restaurant in the spot myself.”

But Ng has his hands full with other projects right now: He and his wife, Theresa, will open a third Overland Park Bo Ling’s location, at 135th and Metcalf, in January 2002. And he’s scaled back the expensive facelift he had scheduled for the Plaza Bo Ling’s to a less costly makeover. Instead of switching the dining room with the bar area, Ng will now simply repaint both and put in new carpeting, upholstery and more dramatic lighting by Thanksgiving.

And on the subject of facelifts: Two area restaurants now look simply mahvelous, dahling.

After giving the Isle of Capri Casino’s Calypso’s Buffet a scathing review several months ago, I tiptoed back in a week ago to check out the redesigned restaurant. The dining area is quite attractive now, and the buffet tables’ arrangement makes more sense. Smaller chafing dishes actually keep the entrée items — which chef Ed Capers has cut back from 36 to a more manageable 20 — hot. I tasted everything and was impressed by the improvements. The fried chicken was hot and crispy, the macaroni and cheese thick and gooey, the beef spareribs meaty and glazed in a smoky, mildly-spiced sauce. Crab legs were available either hot or cold, and, on my first foray into the “Chinese” section, a heaping mound of golden fried shrimp was thickly breaded and crunchy; seven minutes later, the shrimp looked completely different, wrapped in won-ton and flash-fried. At the tidy salad bar, fruits and vegetables were laid out with visual appeal. Capers has also added more dessert selections, including lowbrow stuff (Jell-O salads, rubbery-looking pudding) as well as a sumptuous, warm bread pudding rich with caramel.

But our server confessed that the innovations haven’t been appreciated by the public at large. “Since September 11,” he said, “business has been slow. The gamblers still come, but not the eaters.”

Also recently redone is the former Café Barcelona (520 Southwest Boulevard), which restaurateurs Juan and Francesco Bautista opened on September 28 as Carmen’s on the Boulevard. The Bautistas melded menu items from the old Café Barcelona menu with pasta favorites from their popular Carmen’s in Brookside.

The building’s exterior has been repainted in “Georgian Brick” and its interior done up in peach, lilac and navy. John Ochs paintings hang on the walls, and musicians still play on weekends. But the serving staff doesn’t need a facelift: They all look like movie stars anyway.

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