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Aixois Brasserie drafts Gallic charm downtown

Aixois Brasserie is working hard to charm downtown diners.



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Langlade is a little concerned himself about the dinner business. "It's been very challenging," he says. "Evenings are up and down. One night we'll do better than Brookside, and the next night will be very slow."

It helps when there's an event at the Sprint Center or the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. But the Langlades have built a solid, steady clientele in Brookside, and now they need the same thing to happen on Walnut. There must be enough loft dwellers and businesspeople and hotel guests to fill the place — if there's time enough for awareness to spread.

The Brasserie's dinner menu isn't dramatically different from the Brookside version. All of Emmanuel Langlade's signature dishes are here: the tender and lemony chicken paillard; steak frites, a succulent, modestly priced, grilled hanger steak that's sliced and sided with wonderful crisp fries, and a choice of silky béarnaise or plucky peppercorn sauce (I greedily asked for both of them); and the comforting oven-roasted chicken, poulet rôti. The only new addition to the menu that I've noticed is a walnut-crusted roasted salmon, soubise salmon rôti, if one likes salmon. I do not like salmon, though, and even if I did, I'd still vote for Langlade's ruby trout. He gives that fish the most simple treatment, pan searing it with a discreet almond sauce, and the result is consistently delicious.

One night a friend and I impulsively ordered the terrine du jour, imagining a dainty plate with a dollop of liver pâté and its various traditional accompaniments. And for $8, what else would you get? But you can never discount Emmanuel Langlade's showmanship. He's quiet to the point of shyness outside the kitchen, but a dish like this does plenty of talking. The terrine was delivered on a long wooden plank, arranged like a Miró painting, taking as its focal point the timbale of pink, rustic pâté: on this occasion, pork belly and chicken liver seasoned with rosemary, juniper and thyme. That was surrounded by slices of house-made cucumber pickles, pale-pink pickled onions, a chorus line of almost microscopic cornichons, and paper-thin slices of toasted bread. It was an eloquent starter and more filling than its price suggested. Throw in a bowl of chopped mushrooms and sautéed escargot in a buttery garlic sauce — more garlic, please — and another basket of the freshly baked bread, and you could stop right there.

I didn't, of course, because I was ravenous for steak. Downtown Kansas City has lost, over the years, the Hereford House, Benton's and the weirdly retro venue formerly known as the Walt Bodine Steakhouse, so I'm always grateful to find another spot — in this case, a Gallic beer hall — serving up a decent slab of beef. (The steak frites is also the best deal on the menu, though the filet mignon is good enough to set aside cost.)

Other than the four meatless salads, those with vegetarian leanings have few options. There's quiche, but the meat-free versions tend to sell out at lunch. But Langlade says he's revising the current dinner menu to add at least one vegetarian-friendly entrée. "I've already added a grilled vegetable sandwich with goat cheese to the lunch menu," he told me last week.

The familiar Brookside Aixois desserts, including crème brûlée and ice-cream-filled profiteroles, are here, and Langlade has added something new: a luscious chocolate pot de crème, crowned with real whipped cream. I think this custard would be better appreciated — by me, anyway — if it were served in a traditional ramekin and not a small water glass. I'm all for creative presentation, but not if trying to eat the dish tests my sanity.

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