Sunday, August 19, 2012

Port Fonda Creates A Whole New Twist On Mexican Food In Kansas City

Port Fonda Mexican Restaurant
Port Fonda Moves From Food Truck To Full-Scale Restaurant

Many Kansas Citians are already familiar with Port Fonda because of their popular food truck.  It offered loyal and often inquisitive customers a unique spin on tacos, cemitas (Mexican sandwiches) and more.

I never experienced Port Fonda's street eats, but when they decided to move up from a food truck to a full-scale restaurant in Westport, I wanted to give their "much talked about food" a try.

My first attempt at visiting Port Fonda was a bust.  I thought I would try them for lunch, but when I got there, I was disappointed to find out that they are currently only open for dinner.

However, undeterred and excited about the good things I had been hearing about them, I made a second attempt at Port Fonda's last Friday night.  I arrived shortly after they opened at five o'clock with a friend, ready to have an "unusual Mexican food experience,"  and that is exactly what I had.

We were greeted at the door by the question, "Do you have a reservation?"

When I replied, "No, we don't," we were told we had two seating choices.  We could either sit at the bar or at the community table (with everyone else who didn't have reservations.)  Personally, I've never sat at a community table in an upscale restaurant before, so I thought, "Why not?  It could be interesting."  We were then led to a large wood table surrounded by barstool-style chairs and seated.
The Community Table

The other diners we encountered around us were friendly and pleasant to be around, but the chairs were a different story.  The seats were very small, uncomfortable and hard on the back.  

We then received our menus, and after one look, my head started to spin.  It was not the typical Mexican restaurant menu.  I barely knew what anything was, and we couldn't even begin to pronounce most of it.

Somewhat intimidated and overwhelmed by all the unusual items on the menu, we were finally forced to admit defeat, and we called our server over to interpret for us.  I was impressed because she knew the menu quite well and was able to answer all of our questions in detail. 

Chips and Two Types of Salsa
As we sat pondering the menu, we kept expecting the free chips and salsa to show up in front of us, like it does in most Kansas City Mexican restaurants, but again, Port Fonda is not your typical Mexican restaurant.  They don't offer free chips and salsa. They are a menu item, though, so we started by ordering that as our appetizer, which was $5.

When I tasted the chips, I must admit, I died and went to  Mexican food heaven.  They were some of the best chips I have ever eaten.  They were warm, freshly made, and crunchy delicious.  We also received two types of salsa, tomatillo-habanero and tomato-serrano.  Both salsas were quite different, but fairly tasty and fun to try.

Next came the main dish. I ordered Diesmillo, which is a bowl of braised beef chuck roll, chipotle-cheddar bechamel (cheese sauce), grilled sweet onions, salsa ranchera, and jalapeno. I also received four warm flour tortillas, which tasted homemade.  My entree cost $13, and although unlike anything I have ever eaten, it was absolutely divine.

As for my food mate, she decided on the Camarones En Pipian for $14.  It consisted of a bowl of grilled shrimp, green peanut mole, grilled green onions, and crispy potatoes.  It also came with four flour tortillas.

Camarones En Pipian
The first problem with the Camarones En Pipian was that the shrimp had not been peeled.  That would have been fine, but it was covered in mole and was going to be quite messy to prepare for eating.

The second problem was that my friend took a bite of her food.  She controlled herself from spitting it out, but she did say "It tastes like grass and dirt!"  Now, I don't know how she knows what grass and dirt tastes like, and I thought maybe she was just being dramatic, so I decided to try it for myself.  She was right.  The mole was bitter and ruined the dish for both of us.

When we told our server about the situation, she handled it beautifully.  She quickly took the dish away without charging us for it and allowed my friend to order something else.  Since my dinner companion had sampled and liked what I was eating, she ended up ordering the same thing and was quite happy. 

Throughout the meal, our service was very good and the staff was very attentive.  Our drink glasses were never empty and we never had to ask for anything.  One thing that did bother me, though, was that our meals were not served at the same time.  I received my food almost five minutes before my friend, which was uncomfortable because I did not want to be rude and eat in front of her, but at the same time, I did not want my food to get cold while I waited for her entree to arrive.  Other groups at our table also had the same experience.

A Glimpse Inside Port Fonda
As far as the atmosphere of Port Fonda, it was very chic and modern.  The decor was a mix between rustic desert and urban southwest.

The music, on the other hand was an issue.  There was loud rap music playing, and it was full of four-letter words, which I found a little offensive for a nice restaurant.

Another thing you should know about Port Fonda is that they do offer outdoor sidewalk seating, but all the seats face the west.  In the evening, if you sit outside, you will have the sun shining right in your eyes until it sets behind the buildings across the street.

So, would I go back to Port Fonda?  Yes, I would.  My food was extremely tasty and made my trip to Midtown worthwhile.  I wanted an "unusual Mexican food experience," and that is exactly what I got. However, would I make this a place I visited often or put on my list of absolute favorite go-to restaurants?  Probably not.

To find out more about Port Fonda, which is located at 4141 Pennsylvania, you can visit their Facebook page, which also has comments and up-to-date information about their hours and menu.

Port Fonda on Urbanspoon


1 comment:

  1. As your dining companion for that evening (Lola), I think your review is spot-on. And for your reference, I did eat some grass and dirt when I was a kid. Lol! But boy, the second dish I had was absolutely delicious and the chips were wonderful! Thanks for the adventure!