On one side of the fence is the evolution argument. On the other side are the creation-theory believers. This ongoing battle fuels temper tantrums in the seemingly nicest people. Maybe there should be a middle ground. It’s not as if the two concepts can’t work together in harmony. In fact, at Hannah Bistro Cafe, 3895 State Line Road, creatively evolving seems to be the rule.
Mind you, this has nothing to do with fervent religious or scientific beliefs — unless it’s the strong belief in great food and service and the science of creating great food and service.
Proprietor and chef Brian Whittaker had to use a lot of imagination to open an upscale bistro at a location that formerly housed a chain pizza joint. In fact, remnants are apparent from the outside (can you guess what it used to be?), but all is forgotten once you enter Hannah.
A maze of vines and leaves with a few intermittent lights adorn the ceiling. The display kitchen and a small bar area offset the small dining area. Although the room has a warm feeling, on each occasion we visited, the lights were pretty bright in the dining area. Dimmed lights and candles on the table would have created a cozier feel.
Instead of a host or hostess, a server promptly greeted us and showed us to our seats — then waited on us as well.
On my third visit to the year-plus-old bistro, I noticed a few changes. Foremost, the menu had changed — again. I was informed that the chefs enjoy creating new items so often that they continually shape the menu to challenge themselves and offer something new for the guests. Hannah also offers one or two specials daily.
They have also opened for lunch after months of only dinner service and have added patio seating for warmer seasons.
A decent wine list, with only a few wines offered by the glass, boasts some very good choices. On every occasion the servers were friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable. The appetizers, which arrived quickly, were flavorful and came in decent portions, unlike many appetizer plates at upscale restaurants. The Mediterranean Dips ($6.75), featuring olive tapenade, hummus, and smoked eggplant mousse, were a hit, but several other guests mentioned the dips would be better served with pita or baguette bread instead of the crostini. The popular Crab Cake Stack ($9.95), flavored with garlic and herb and served with potato leaves and aioli is a great choice for starters. If you’re adventurous, try the most unusual appetizer on the list, Pear Bretagne ($7.95), which features a poached pear stuffed with Stilton cheese, wrapped in prosciutto, and served with tomato jam and port sauce. These were definitely the most flavorful appetizers. We didn’t try the Brittany Style Mussels ($7.50), which are said to be the most popular dish.
Soups and salads are served a la carte, and although they hike up the bill quite a bit when ordering $15 to $25 dinners, it’s a pit stop worth paying for later. The garlic tomato soup was nothing short of heavenly, and the Warm Goat Cheese Salad (small, $5.75; large, $9.25), though small, was delectable served on a bed of butter lettuce with a hint of vinaigrette topped with fried goat cheese.
We had plenty of time between courses, and the servers were ever-present — offering drinks and removing plates — but not overbearing.
For pasta lovers, the Smoked Salmon Lasagna ($12.75) is one of the house specialties, and the Primavera, when served with the pesto sauce, is a zesty and filling dish. On one visit, I ordered the Grilled Filet ($25.00), marinated in olive oil and garlic and served with a pesto and shallot confit and a side of tasty roasted Yukon Potatoes. Although somewhat undercooked, it was still a well-presented entree. For this visit, I ordered the special, a pan-seared chicken breast served with risotto and shallots. The dish was cooked perfectly and had an excellent presentation; however, it was flavorless, leaving me a little disappointed.
Chef Patrick’s Creme Brulee ($5.25) was an ample and pleasing dessert, but the Chocolate Heaven ($5.75) — sliced frozen chocolate marquise with warm chocolate sauce — and the Flourless Chocolate Cake ($5.95) stole our hearts.
One service issue, however. On the way into the bistro I noticed a coat rack. But I never once saw an employee offer to take anyone’s coat. This could be because of the restaurant’s lack of a host.
The cafe seems to be headed in the right direction. Obviously, good food, personable service, and an inviting atmosphere are the ways to success. Hannah remembers what many restaurants forget, with Kansas City becoming more and more a restaurant town, with new eateries every day: You must continuously change to keep the guests interested. Hannah has evolved a little each time I’ve visited.
rating:3895 State Line Road, KCMO, 816-960-1300.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.;
Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
*Major credit cards accepted.
Appetizers, attentive but not obnoxious service, Garlic Tomato Soup, Warm Goat Cheese Salad.
Entrees a tad expensive to be served without
soup or salad
(¢) Under $5, ($) $5-$10, ($$) $10-$15,
($$$) $15-$20, ($$$$) Over $20