Chef Anita Moore’s first memories of cooking come from time spent in her grandmother’s southern kitchen, where she helped her prepare the weekly Sunday dinner.
As a young adult, her love of southern food continued to be influenced by New Orleans celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse and John Besh, who cooked like her grandmother – low and slow, with plenty of soul.
Now, she is looking forward to bringing all of those culinary influences to roost with her first restaurant, Soirée New Orleans Bistro, opening in Smithville, Missouri, in mid-April. The 2,800-square-foot restaurant, located in a former Pizza Shoppe, will seat 80.
The restaurant space has great bones and already had the look of a classic New Orleans restaurant: it features exposed brick walls, dark wood and light fixtures that look like they are straight out of the French Quarter. The kitchen, however, was completely renovated, as the pizza oven originally located in the space didn’t require the size of oven hood that Moore needs to run a full-service restaurant.
“I had been looking all over the Kansas City for the right location for my first restaurant, but I circled back to this location twice before I knew that it was the right place,” says Moore. “It really was a blessing because the landlord cut me a great deal, and I want to provide the people who live up north a great new restaurant to enjoy.”
Moore, who has been cooking professionally since 2006, lives in Raytown with her husband and four daughters. She formerly worked at 99 Hops House, the beer bar and restaurant inside the Argosy Casino Hotel & Spa, and the hotel's previous upscale steakhouse concept. She also has spent time in kitchens at The Westin Crown Center and was on the backstage catering staff at The Midland.
No matter where Moore has worked, though, she always returns to her love of contemporary Creole cuisine. That's the inspiration for her scratch kitchen at Soirée, which will serve lunch, dinner and a full brunch buffet. A separate kid’s menu is also in the works.
“I am also pricing my menu so that it is accessible to everyone,” she says. “For example, I am going to offer a po’boy sandwich special with chips and a drink for $10 at lunch, and at dinner nothing will be over $22, which is my top steak entree.”
The lunch menu at Soirée will offer a few casual offerings inspired by New Orleans corner stores, like a selection of po’boys, including shrimp, oyster, catfish and housemade sausage. Moore will start with a Cajun boudin sausage and andouille that she plans to serve in several dishes. For appetizers, look for a fried green tomato stack, smoked chicken wings tossed in a five-spice bourbon sauce and deep-fried southern deviled eggs with a pimento cheese filling, topped with pulled pork, candied jalapeño and pickled red onion. Dinner entrees will feature accessible southern staples with seasonings and spices that honor the famous dishes of the Big Easy.
Moore will make her own gumbo, jambalaya and crawfish etoufee from scratch. Other entrees will include steak and a “brick hen” featuring a smoked, sweet tea-brined Cornish hen served with boudin dirty rice and braised greens.
For dessert, beignets covered in powdered sugar will be made hot and fresh all day. A sweet potato bourbon cheesecake with apple cider caramel sauce topped with bourbon whipped cream will tempt. Another dish will blend her family’s favorite dessert, banana pudding, with the more formal bananas foster.
“This is my dream parfait; I braise fresh bananas in brown butter and add them to a creamy housemade banana pudding, then layer it with caramel rum sauce and vanilla wafers and fresh whipped cream,” she says.
To complement the food menu, Moore plans to have a full bar that will offer a small cocktail list leaning heavy on the bourbon and whiskey. Several local beers from Boulevard and KC Bier Co., will be available, as well as several wines by the glass or bottle.
Moore is looking forward to inviting her new neighbors and local businesses in for her soft opening sometime in early April.
“I missed being open for Fat Tuesday this year, but you can count on me being here and celebrating when it rolls around next year,” she says.
Soirée New Orleans Bistro, 14121 Earthworks Drive, Smithville, Missouri, 913.952.8986, facebook.com/soireeneworleansbistro