Sept. 17, 2004
Mexican taken to a new level
by Mike Taylor
Nothing about Maya's Mexican Bistro, 12921 State Line Rd., suggests the restaurant's true nature until a diner opens the menu. Oh, sure, "Mexican" offers a certain suggestion, but what does it mean when combined with "bistro"?
The restaurant sits at the north end of a strip mall (on the
Missouri side) across from some of south Leawood's tonier subdivisions.
The building with its pedestrian brick exterior previously housed
a steakhouse and barbecue joint. The interior with cantina-style
wooden chairs, brown clothed tables and brick walls adorned
with wrought iron artworks suggests "Mexican Bistro" in a minimal
way. But it's the menu that reveals "two" restaurants
in one kitchen.
Headings atop the two-page spread tell customers they're not
at an ordinary Mexican restaurant. The "Traditional"
page presents a full array of the usual Mexican dishes The "Bistro"
page describes entrees with a Spanish flare, reflecting chef/co-owner
Rodney Clodfelter's previous stint as Piropos' sous chef. Clodfelter's
brother-in-law and co-owner Peter Alvarez developed the traditional
part of the menu after working as a manager for Margarita's.
Fulfillment of the menu's promise starts with the complementary
chips and salsa. Any Mexican restaurant worth a second Margarita
makes its own tortillas chips, but I haven't found one before
that goes to the trouble of using roast tomatoes in the salsa.
Emily, my other half, and Karen the caterer both sopped the
salsa onto chips despite their general distaste for cilantro.
Karen said, "This isn't bad. I can tolerate the cilantro
Seafood and cheeses dominate the appetizers. Maya's Ceviche
($7) features scallops and shrimp. Cheese dishes include a spinach
and white cheddar dip ($5) and Queso Fundido ($5), a cheese
casserole with Chorizo sausage. They also serve Tableside Guacamole
($5) but my cilantro-shy companions had the waiter substitute
chopped tomatoes for the cilantro-laced Pico de gallo used to
season the dish. I didn't get to appreciate the dip's full flavor.
Artichoca Frita ($5), deep fried artichokes with the ubiquitous
queso and served with a seductive spicy cream sauce, drew raves
and serious praise from our foursome on one nightly visit. Emily
and our friends Leah and Lenny gave excited "ummmhs"
and "ahhhs" after their first bites. Leah told me,
"You've got to tell people about this."
Clodfelter, Alvarez and their partners offer delicious food
from an ambitious menu in a casual, comfortable setting. I could
argue that the only thing wrong with Maya's Mexican Bistro is
its location. It should be down in the Crossroads or on 39th
Street's restaurant row. A "bistro" belongs uptown,
downtown or in midtown, not out in the burbs.
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