A 10-day culinary showcase featuring the best restaurants in and around Kansas City.

If you are a Kansas City Foodie or just somebody that loves to have an excellent meal at a great price, then mark your calendar for January 21-30, 2011.

The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association and the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association announce the second annual Kansas City Restaurant Week presented by Jackson Family Wines.

In its inaugural year, Kansas City Restaurant Week featured 101 restaurants, making it one of the most successful restaurant weeks in the nation when compared to markets of similar size. The 2011 Kansas City Restaurant Week will boast hundreds of prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner featuring an assortment of cuisines created by participating restaurants’ chefs and culinary staff.

The event will take place January 21 – 30.

Restaurants from every area of Kansas City are featured in 2011, giving diners the opportunity to stay close to home or travel throughout the metro for a new dining experience. A complete list of participating restaurants is available at the Kansas City Restaurant Week website. The list is continually updated as new restaurants enroll. The list also incorporates online reservations via Open Table for participating restaurants offering the service.

My husband Steve and I had the unique opportunity to preview (and taste) some dishes that will be featured at this years Restaurant Week and from what I can tell you will not go away hungry or break the bank!

The first dishes we tried were at Bristol Seafood Grill, which has two locations in the metro, one in Leawood the other downtown at Power and Light District. Both are participating in Restaurant Week and I was at the Power and Light location. Their Restaurant Week dishes served to us were a Lobster Bisque and Seared Georges Bank Scallops.

I had a great time chatting with Sous Chef James Masters as he described the ingredients and preparation of each dish highlighting the fact that the seafood at Bristol is caught fresh and flow in daily and is as fresh as what is served on the coastline.

Steve and I were both in awe over the bisque it was amazing. There are big chunks of lobster meat in a base of cream, sherry and tomato with just a little heat from some cayenne.

Now, about those scallops. One word, delicious! The scallops were seasoned with salt and pepper and then seared in butter which gave them a nice crust, but were still tender inside. The scallops were served over a wild mushroom risotto and shaved fennel salad with a basil and olive oil glaze.

For dessert we were given a Vanilla Cream Brulee. The top was perfectly caramelized and I loved sound of the sugary crust cracking as I dove my spoon into the perfectly creamy custard which had fresh vanilla beans woven throughout.

If you are not a huge seafood fan do not worry. Bristol has a baby green or Caesar salad and a nice center cut filet on their restaurant week menu to choose from as well. The Bristol is offering their restaurant week lunch menu which includes a salad or the Lobster Bisque as an appetizer and then an entree choice from the following; Grilled Salmon, Almond Crusted Tilapia, Lobster Mac and Cheese or Petite Filet Mignon all for only $15.00.

Dinner includes choice of salad or Lobster Bisque as an appetizer, then choice of Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Seared Geroges Bank Scallops or 6 oz Center Cut Filet for the entree. Dessert is your choice of a Vanilla Creme Brulee or an Orange Cream Chocolate Tart all for only $30.00.

The Bristol Seafood Grill has been in the Power and Light District for three years and prides itself on bringing you the freshest seafood which is flown in daily. Owned by the Kansas City based Houlihan’s Restaurant’s Inc, The Bristol Seafood serves up fresh delicious mouthwatering dishes using products from local Kansas City companies including Farm to Market Bread and others.

The decor at The Bristol is sleek and modern, but also warm and inviting. I felt my self not wanting to leave with the smooth jazz music playing, the fireplace and the warm lighting. It is definitely one of those places I could linger for hours sipping wine and enjoying course after course of their delectable fare.

If you have not been to Bristol Seafood Grill, Kansas City Restaurant Week is the perfect time to try it. The atmosphere is perfect for a romantic date and the special menu pricing won’t empty your wallet!

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I could have lingered at the Bristol for hours, but was on a schedule to visit another place and sample more Restaurant Week fare. That places was Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop.

Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop has been on my list of places to go so I really was excited to try it. Lulu’s prides itself on being a family owned business. Owner Malisa Monyakula, whose nickname was Lulu growing up, serves traditional Thai street food and prepares authentic Thai dishes she grew up eating and uses recipes passed down from her father.

Her, along with assistant manager Mike Dragen gave us the scoop on the Restaurant Week menu.

The lunch menu includes one appetizer and two entree’s for $15.00.

The appetizer choices include: Calamari, Green Mango Salad, Sesame Encrusted Tofu, Corn Cakes and Spring Rolls. Entree choices are: Ba’nh Mi sandwich, Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice, Lulu’s Secret Curry and Khun Yar New Noodles.

Dinner includes an appetizer, 2 entrees and dessert for $30.00. Choices are Laab, Green Papaya Salad, Firecracker Shrimp, Crab Cakes, Sesame Encrusted Tofu or Gia Yang for the appetizers. Entree choices are Lulu’s Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice, Lulu’s Secret Curry, Khun Yar New Noodles, Thai Lettuce Wraps and Crab Fried Rice. Dessert is your choice of Christopher Elbow Glace Ice Cream, that Mr. Elbow makes especially for them and includes flavors like Fried Banana, Toasted Coconut, Thai Basil, Pineapple Cilantro Sorbet and Thai Tea.

Our dinner started with the Crab Cakes that came with a house made Sriracha Aoli and a Green Mango Salad with Blue Crab. The Crab Cakes where crispy on the outside with a tender crab filling inside and the Sriracha Aoli added some nice heat. The Green Mango Salad was crunchy with a sweet dressing and full of crab meat, cilantro and cashews.

The two entrees we tried were the Secret Curry, well which is a secret and is actually a new dish to Lulu’s that is not even on the menu yet. It was full of chicken, eggplant, pineapple and onion in a secret curry sauce. The other entree was the Pineapple Fried Shrimp. It was full of shrimp, pineapple, cashews and golden raisins. The chewiness of the raisins along with the crunch of the cashews was a great combination.

For dessert the Glace flavors we tried were Toasted Coconut and Fried Banana and in true Elbow fashion they were spectacular. The real gem using his ice cream at Lulu’s is the traditional Thai ice cream sandwich, which is a sweet baguette, sliced open and filled with three scoops of your favorite Glace flavor. These ice cream sandwiches are a Thai street food favorite in Thailand.

Lulu’s has been a Kansas City hot spot in the Crossroads District for over 10 years and just recently moved locations just around the corner from their previous spot. The atmosphere has a true neighborhood feel and is twice the size of their previous location.

One thing I found intriguing at Lulu’s and cannot wait to go back and try is their cocktail menu. They have over 20 different fruit & herb infused liquors that they make each week in-house for their specialty cocktails. Read more about them and everything else that is new at Lulu’s here.

Lulu’s is a great place to gather and enjoy unique Thai dishes and a unique happy hour featuring authentic Thai street food.

Owner Malisa Monyakula was recently awarded a small business proclamation from Mayor Funkhouser for her time and dedication to building her small business in the Crossroads of Kansas City. She received this honor on the anniversary of her 14th year in business. Monyakula says,” We are thrilled with this honor, and it is our understanding we are the first to receive it in Kansas City.”

Over 100 restaurants are participating in Restaurant Week and the prix fixe lunch and dinner menus are available for viewing and can be found on the Kansas City Restaurant Week blog and website. Be the first to know what is going on with Kansas City Restaurant Week by becoming a Kansas City Restaurant Week fan on Facebook. Kansas City Restaurant Week is also on Twitter at @RestaurantWeek.

The prix fixe menus will offer multiple courses for lunch and dinner at $15.00 and $30.00, respectively. Ten percent of each meal will again be donated to Harvesters – The Community Food Network, helping fight hunger in the Kansas City metro area. Last year, Kansas City Restaurant Week raised nearly $56,000, which translated to 275,000 meals provided to the hungry in Kansas City.

Call today to make reservations at your favorite spot or someplace new you have been wanting to try.

Kansas City Restaurant Week 2011 is supported by Gold Plate sponsors Boulevard Brewing Company, Discover, U.S. Foodservice, The Kansas City Star, Ink magazine, and Spaces magazine, as well as Silver Plate sponsors Pepsi, The Roasterie, Inc., Kansas City Originals, and NightLifeKC.com.

In Good Taste,