Michael Smith and Extra Virgin Restaurants
By Heather McNeill
Michael Smith is one of Kansas City’s best contemporary American fine-dining restaurants. Extra Virgin is a Mediterranean tapas restaurant that has gained a loyal following for its carefree feel, tasty small plates, and patio overlooking the Crossroads Art District. The neighboring establishments are drastically different in décor and approach, yet both have been wildly popular. But that should come as no surprise. These are the creations of one of the city’s most recognized chefs, after all.
Chef Michael Smith became well known for reinvigorating the menu of Kansas City’s famous American Restaurant, and later for showcasing his fresh culinary style at his own restaurant, 40 Sardines. After 40 Sardines closed, the James Beard Award-winning chef reemerged at the establishment that bears his name. Michael Smith opened about three and a half years ago, and Extra Virgin about two years ago. Together with his wife Nancy Smith, co-owner and general manager, he has continually fulfilled customers’ demands, attracting repeat visitors because of the attention placed on fresh and seasonal cuisine. “Everything stays very fresh and changes often, so if you book a party here in November and another in March,you’ll have totally different options to choose from,” says Nancy Smith. Mid-sized groups can meet in one of three private dining rooms. Larger groups of up to 100 can rent the patio outside Extra Virgin or the entire dining room of either restaurant. The restaurant charges no extra fee for room rental, and will help coordinate arrangements with florists and other vendors, depending on the needs of the group.
EXCITING MENU OPTIONS
One of the best reasons to host an event at Michael Smith or Extra Virgin is the ability to choose from either restaurant’s cuisine. Nancy Smith explains the choice of a menu depends on the needs of the group and the ambiance planners are trying to achieve. About 60% of event planners choose from the Michael Smith-style menu and 40% choose from the Extra Virgin-style menu, she says. From the Michael Smith offerings, planners can choose a full, three-course set menu for $65 per person or a “choice of entrée” menu for $46 per person. Planners also can choose the popular chef ’s tasting menu. Four-, five- and six-course menus provides a sampling of both a meat and fish offering, which are slightly bigger than half a portion. The four-course menu is $55 per person with an optional wine pairing of $30. The five-course menu is $65 per person with an optional wine pairing at $35. The six-course menu is similar to the five-course menu, but includes a cheese course before the dessert. Brian Naifeh, a medical sales representative for Alcon Laboratories, has hosted numerous events at the restaurants, including a recent presentation to 15 physicians. Naifeh chose a Michael Smith menu for his group. “For my event, the staff arranged a perfect four-course menu with wine pairings for each course,” he says. “Our four courses were Maine Lobster Risotto, Seared Diver Sea Scallops, Filet Mignon and Sour Cherry Bread Pudding. Everything was delicious and the customer service is always excellent.” Passed appetizers are priced at $28 per dozen. “Michael does outstanding mini Caesar salads in parmesan tart shells, with diced egg and parmesan on top,” Nancy Smith says. “They’re a scrumptious vegetarian option. You pop them in your mouth and it’s like a refreshing salad course.” Other appetizers on this menu include crab ceviche tostadas and seared foie gras on brioche sliders. From the Extra Virgin side of the restaurant, planners can choose one of three menus, a creative selection of items from several cuisines from around the Mediterranean region. The El Toro provides three rounds of tapas at $30 per person, the Andaluza provides four rounds at $40 per person, and the Malaga is a five-round sampling of tapas for $55 per person. All include dessert items and are served family style. “There’s a lot going on from Spain, Morocco, Italy, there’s a lot of Lebanese influence on the menu. We cover the whole range,” says Nancy Smith. In addition to hummus, flatbread and marinated olives, angel hair pasta with sea urchin and caviar, and chorizo-filled chicken thighs, adventurous eaters can try selections such as pig ear salad and stuffed duck neck. Yet even those more exotic items are presented in such a palatable way that they can appeal to all diners. Bill Lyons, retired CEO of American Century Investments, has a long history with Michael Smith’s restaurants as a patron, an investor, and a planner. He has been impressed with the quality of the dining experience and Michael Smith’s skills as a chef. “He has a tremendous background and a long history of producing fresh, appropriately seasonal dishes,” Lyons says. Lyons co-hosts 12 events a year at the Michael Smith restaurant to welcome guest musicians of the Kansas City Symphony. “I think the most impressive aspect for me is the quality of the food,” says Lyons, who sits on the symphony’s board of directors. “It is the best fine dining locale in the city.”
SEVERAL SPACES, AFFORDABLE PARTIES
Three private dining rooms are available for events. One, located on the mezzanine level of Extra Virgin, can be set up with round or rectangular tables and accommodates up to 30 people. The room also has a 50-inch flat screen TV that can be connected to a laptop or iPod. A private wine room can accommodate up to eight people. The third space is the LightBox Gallery, an art gallery located just below both restaurants. It was recently renovated to complement the décor of the Michael Smith restaurant. This space can accommodate 50 people for a cocktail party or a sit-down meal. Bigger groups can rent the patio outside Extra Virgin, or the entire dining room of either Michael Smith or Extra Virgin. The fees to rent the dining rooms vary depending on the night of the week and the group’s needs. Events can take place when the restaurants are closed. Michael Smith is closed on Sunday and Monday, and Extra Virgin is closed on Sunday only. Planners also can consider different budget-friendly options at the restaurants. “If somebody has a budget and needs us to be flexible on pricing, we’ll show a lot of options. We don’t want to turn anybody away,” Nancy Smith says. Planners can host an event during Extra Virgin’s popular happy hour, when tapas are half price and all cocktails and wines by the glass are $2 off. The happy hour is every Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., “the longest happy hour in town, I think,” Nancy Smith says.
THE RIGHT CHOICE
With as many options as Michael Smith and Extra Virgin offer, planners will surely find the right menu and ambiance for their needs. They also will know exactly what to expect when they plan an event at either restaurant, says Naifeh. “I’ve hosted numerous small gatherings at both restaurants and have never heard a complaint from anyone,” he says. “Extra Virgin is a fun, casual atmosphere when you want to share small plates or sit outside. Michael Smith is the perfect choice for a more formal dinner.” MM&E
(Heather McNeill is a contributor from Kansas City, Mo.)
Nancy Smith, owner and general manager
Michael Smith and Extra Virgin
1900 Main St.
Kansas City, MO 64108
Phone: (816) 842-2205
Fax: (816) 842-2206