Mi Asia Bistro is the restaurant at 1513 Grand Boulevard that almost wasn’t

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For 18 months after the restaurant space at 1513 Grand changed hands, work went on, but the new place kept not opening.

Se Asian Bistro it was meant to be called, something different at the address that was for three decades home to Willy Cafe, one of the first restaurants in the metro to serve both Chinese and Thai cuisine. A sign went up. A menu was developed. Six gas-fired wok stations were installed in the kitchen, and the front of the house looked sleek.

It never opened. Not as Se Asian Bistro, anyway.

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After completing 50 percent of the restaurant’s build-out, the young owner, Steve Srivisay, stopped work on the project. That’s when the business was offered by the landlords to veteran Kansas City restaurateur Eric Parrinello (the 119th Street Diner, the Bacchanalia special events venue), who jumped in to complete a project that he originally envisioned as, he says, “a kind of Chipotle with a limited menu of fresh, hot Asian food both ordered and picked up at a fast-moving counter.”

Since opening to the public as Mi Asian Bistro (pronounced My Asian Bistro,” Parrinello says) three weeks ago, the New York-born Parrinello has offered familiar dishes from Korea, Thailand, China and Japan. But a more streamlined menu is on the way. The Happy Family entree is on the 86 list (“Too labor intensive,” Parrinello says), and the char siu barbecue pork entree has already been replaced by pork-fried rice.

There are now seven entrees on the Mi Asia Bistro menu, including Korean bulgogi, teriyaki chicken and orange chicken (all served on white rice, fried rice or noodles). The food is served in recyclable pasteboard bowls and platters or neatly constructed boats of paper-thin bamboo.

There are only six tables in the dining room, and a counter window facing Grand has another five stools. Parrinello wasn’t sure, initially, if he would have much eat-in traffic, though two of the many former restaurant tenants here (most memorably Willy Cafe and Thai Paradise) offered sit-down service for years.

“Most of my carryout business right now,” Parrinello says, “is from the dancers over at Totally Nude Temptations. They love my egg rolls and crab rangoon.”

Sales so far are good (during the Royals parade on November 3, Parrinello sold out of everything in the kitchen), with the starters — miso soup, crab rangoon, seaweed salad, Korean chicken wings, spring rolls and egg rolls — the hottest items.

Until Parrinello gets his liquor license (the idea is to serve only sake and beer), Mi Asian Bistro offers bottled water, cans of soda, iced tea, and serve-yourself fountain drinks.

“The hardest thing about this location is just letting people know that we’re here and we’re open,” Parrinello says. “So many people have walked by this building for the last 18 months wondering what we were going to serve and what our price points were going to be.”

Parrinello wants to franchise Mi Asians (especially, he says, husband-and-wife teams). “It’s an easy menu to pull off,” he says. “Many of the same ingredients go into different dishes: wraps, soups, rice bowls.

“I’d like to do an Italian version, Mi Italia,” he adds, “or Mi Steakhouse.”

Mi Asian Bistro is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Categories: Dining, Food & Drink