Beena Brandsgard is back and jazzing up Leawood's Carma

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Beena Brandsgard -- formerly of Jardine's -- is booking musicians into the Carma restaurant in Leawood, including Brian Ruskin and Greg Whitfield, who headlined last weekend.
  • Beena Brandsgard -- formerly of Jardine's -- is booking musicians into the Carma restaurant in Leawood, including Brian Ruskin and Greg Whitfield, who headlined last weekend.


Last month, the three-year-old branch of the long-running Brookside restaurant, Carmen's Cafe, received a new name - Carma. It was just the latest change for the Park Place restaurant, at 11526 Ash, which had a change in operators in late November when brothers Juan and Francisco Bautista, owners of the Brookside venue, stepped away from an ownership interest.

The restaurant's major investor, Don Sanders, took over the management of the Italian and Mediterranean restaurant and brought in his daughter, Bree, and son-in-law chef, Israel Hernandez, to work in the sleek dining spot. Sanders also promoted Beena Brandsgard - the former owner of Jardine's jazz club and restaurant on the Country Club Plaza, to general manager of the restaurant, which is introducing a new menu by longtime chef Leo Santana on Monday.

Brandsgard, who closed Jardine's in 2011 amid much drama (including impulsively firing most of her staff and trying to sell the venue, unsuccessfully, to two former friends), has kept a low public profile for the last two years, but as the general manager of Carma, she's getting back into the music business.
Brandsgard says she has a full schedule of musicians slated to perform in the Carma dining room through the month of January, including familiar names such as Everette DeVan, Danny Embrey, Rod Fleeman, and Bram Wijnands - all of whom were frequent headliners at Jardine's in its heyday.

Musicians - "Mostly solo performers and duos," Brandsgard says - will be featured on Wednesday through Saturday evenings.

"There's so little jazz music out here in the suburbs," Brandsgard says, "we felt it could be a real draw for both Carma and Park Place."

The other major project that Brandsgard is overseeing is the construction of a casual dining cafe, offering flatbreads, salads and sandwiches sold at a counter during the lunch hours. This new venue, tentatively opening in March, will be located in the space that was formerly a private dining room for Carmen's Cafe. Brandsgard says the addition of the AMC corporate offices to Park Place has increased the need for quick lunch offerings.

The new Carma menu will feature many of the popular dishes created by the Bautista family for Carmen's Cafe, but chef Santana is introducing a new signature steak: an 8-ounce filet mignon served on a rosemary demi-glace and topped with onions caramelized in a balsamic reduction. Other new menu items are a fritto misto starter and freshly made pasta dishes.


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