There are a number of good meals at Twelve

12/19/2013 10:18 PM

12/19/2013 10:18 PM

The west side deserves to have nice things, too.

Twelve Restaurant & Bar, a casual upscale restaurant that opened in June in the former Shorty Small’s space at 119th and Maple, is a very nice thing for the west side. Not only is it locally owned, it also has good food, a beautiful atmosphere and is welcoming to young families.

It’s owned by Bryce Kuhn, who has worked in Wichita restaurants for years, managing places such as Bonefish Grill, Newport Grill, Ya Ya’s and Lakeside Club. He named his restaurant after his lucky number and hired Patrick McMahon to head up his kitchen and serve as general manager.

ON THE MENU The Twelve menu has a small list of appetizers, some salads, several sandwiches and squarely American entree choices such as grilled pork chops, smoked ribs, roasted chicken and several steaks, including a filet and a prime rib. It also offers several nice fish dishes, two burgers and a couple of pastas.

DON’T-MISS DISHES One of the diners in my party is a major fan of prime rib but jokes that no matter where he goes in Wichita to order it, the server always returns with the bad news that all the prime rib is gone. That didn’t happen at Twelve. He ordered the prime rib, and he got it – cooked to a perfect medium. The 12-ounce cut of beef ($26) was tender and flavorful and was served with a side of au jus. It was even better when dressed with the raw horseradish the waiter brought upon request. The prime rib is available only after 5 p.m., and so is the side dish it’s served with: a wonderful and decadent loaded baked potato cooked to crispy, salty perfection on the outside and stuffed with creamy, cheesy goodness.

We also ordered the smoked ribs, which I was nervous about. It’s been a long time since I’ve been served a decent rib in a nonbarbecue restaurant in Wichita, but these were perfect. We asked for a half-order, which was a large serving for $15. The meat was smoky and fell off the bone, and the house-made sauce had caramelized and produced a nice crust on the outside of the ribs. They were served with a side of slaw and Twelve’s fabulous fries, which are skinny-cut and served with the skin on.

The BLT ($10) was another good choice. It was served on thick-cut, toasted brioche that was stuffed with crunchy applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce and thick-sliced tomatoes, all dressed with a bacon aoli. It came with a side of fries.

We also loved the breaded tilapia ($16), which was pan-roasted to crunchy perfection and was served resting atop a bed of basil and artichoke ice with citrus beurre blanc sauce. The fish was mild, the coating was grease-free, and the portion was big.

We were happy to discover that we’d landed at Twelve on one of its “family” nights. On Mondays and Tuesdays after 5 p.m., the restaurant offers one free kid’s meal with each adult meal purchased. We assumed there had been a mistake when the food arrived, though, because the kid portions were huge and plentiful and were made fresh and from scratch, just like the adult meals. The most impressive was the chicken tenders, which were clearly breaded in-house and served on a grownup-sized plate with a giant side of fries. For free. The cheeseburger and grilled cheese plates also were big and tasty. On nonkids’ nights, the meals are $6 apiece.

Our meal had only a few misses. We didn’t love the spinach artichoke dip, which was $9. The dip needed seasoning, and it was served with some blah tortilla chips and bizarre pieces of fried pita. The prime rib dip sandwich ($13) was just OK. There wasn’t much flavor, and the hoagie was bulky. (Though the sauteed zucchini/red pepper mixture we chose for the side was great.)

Twelve has a limited dessert menu, most of which is prepared in-house. We ordered creme brulee and were excited when it came out looking perfect in a giant white ramekin. But something was amiss. The creme brulee had a distinct garlic flavor, and we quickly deduced that the dish it was served in was the exact size and shape of the one the garlicky sweet corn risotto side dish is served in. Some of that flavor, sadly, survived the dishwasher.

AMBIANCE The restaurant is gorgeous, filled with comfortable booths, beautiful dark-topped tables and elegant dining chairs. Best of all, the room is kept dim, and real candles glow on the tables, creating a perfect lighting concept for fine dining. The layout is a little faulty in some places, though. Our large party was stuck at a table against the front window, and people on one side were so cramped, they were unable to move. People on the other side found their chair backs pressed close to the next table, and servers frequently had trouble navigating the aisle.

PRICE RANGE Twelve is not inexpensive, but it’s not too expensive for the kind of food – and the quantity – that it serves. Appetizers are $9 to $14. Sandwiches and burgers are $9 to $13. Entrees range from $14 for pasta primavera to $26 for the 12-ounce prime rib. The average entree price is around $16.

SERVICE Our server was good. He forgot a salad here and some condiments there, but he was pleasant and personable and quickly fixed those problems.

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