15 comfort food dishes to try this fall
Chef Theresia Ota grew up in Hawaii in a family that loved to cook.
Her German mom’s specialty was sauerkraut-braised pork shank. Her Japanese dad loved to make chicken katsu — chicken pounded thin, breaded with panko and fried until golden.
But on most days, Ota liked to eat light.
“Growing up in Hawaii, we didn’t really have the days where you want to eat mashed potatoes or mac and cheese,” she says. “Comfort food to us was cold tofu with shoyu (soy sauce) and scallion and sesame oil. On those hot days, it’s nice and refreshing.”
Ota’s idea of comfort food changed slightly 16 months ago, when she moved to Kansas City for her job as chef de cuisine at Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar, 4814 Roanoke Parkway.
“I love having access to real Kansas City barbecue,” says Ota, who recently went to Gates for the first time. “That was killer. I can’t not eat ribs: They’re my favorite.”
She also raves about the kimchi pancakes and kalbi (Korean-style short ribs) at Choga Korean Restaurant, 6920 W. 105th St. in Overland Park.
When it comes to over-the-top comfort food, Ota says it doesn’t get much better than the Surf N’ Turf at Jax Fish House. Customers mix and match from a list of options that includes grilled sirloin, braised short rib, shrimp, lobster tail or King crab.
Ota’s ideal combo is the braised short rib with a steamed lobster tail ($48). The thick hunk of beef is seared, then braised until it’s almost fall-apart tender in a mixture of reduced red wine, chicken stock and beef drippings.
“The fat just melts into the meat,” Ota says. “It’s beautiful.”
The meal is served with melted butter (for the lobster), plus a wedge salad, olive oil mashed potatoes and seared greens. It tastes like pure indulgence, but it is also gluten- and dairy-free.
In the mood for comfort food? Here are 15 more Kansas City dishes that will satisfy the strongest cravings for everything from Vietnamese pho to meatloaf and mac and cheese.