Cafe Society

James Mazzio's Supper Club will intrigue and entertain this weekend

Amuse-bouches, those tiny morsels of goodness offered by a chef to kick-start a meal, can be made of nearly anything -- salmon tartare, cucumber gazpacho, asparagus mousse, etc. What they have in common is size (small) and design (creative). But what about an overstuffed sausage-and-cheese burrito or a messy smoked chicken sandwich?

While these offerings at Red Star Deli don't fit the norm, that's in some respects what they really are: goodwill offerings -- albeit gigantic ones -- from a talented chef. And this Friday and Saturday, you have a chance to taste the rest of the meal when James Mazzio, owner of Red Star Deli (the subject of this week's review) and Studio F, welcomes diners to join him for dinner, not just breakfast and lunch. See also: -The meat-centric Red Star Deli is a rising star -Red Star Deli, pop-up dinners and a chef series all part of chef James Mazzio's vision for Mise en Place Cooking School -Chef and Tell with James Mazzio

Throughout the year, Studio F, which now shares the former Mise-en-Place Cooking School space in the Icehouse with Red Star Deli, puts on sporadic pop-up dinners by visiting chefs, farm-to-cocktail dinners and corporate team-building sessions built around envelopes with mystery ingredients and entrees created on the fly.

But this weekend Mazzio (a Food & Wine Best New Chef winner in 1999) is turning Studio F into his own restaurant, inviting people into the exhibition kitchen to watch him prepare --and later, eat -- an haute cuisine multi-course meal. Guests choose from a small menu of dishes -- think lobster-studded Olathe sweet corn soup and beef tenderloin with locally-foraged mushrooms -- and pay accordingly, with prices in the low teens for apps and the upper twenties for entrees. Wine and beverages are also available.

For Mazzio, Supper Club (as he calls the two-night-only restaurant) allows him to stretch his culinary muscles. "I'm always trying to push myself to do new things I haven't done before," he says. Tomorrow, for example, that includes serving tapioca with an entrée (a first for him), specifically cold coconut tapioca with spicy Szechwan pepper greens as an accompaniment to wild-caught salmon.

"People's first reaction is going to be, 'This is totally weird,'" Mazzio laughs. "Then they'll eat it and say, 'I get what you're doing.'" Talk about entertaining to the mouth -- which is, after, all, the literal translation of amuse-bouche.

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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz