Rising Chef Opens Jarocho in South KC
By Jill Draper
If you’re a foodie, or to be more precise, a seafoodie, you may already know that something big is happening in South Kansas City. In the middle of a strip mall at Blue Ridge Boulevard and State Line Road is Jarocho South, a Mexican seafood place that opened at the end of April.
The owner is Carlos Falcon, a rising chef who also runs Jarocho KCK. He describes his latest eatery as a humble place that serves honest food. Humble, yes. It’s on the small side with 60 seats (plus an outdoor patio), an open kitchen and local art for sale on bright turquoise walls. But its reach is global, with a menu sourced from connections around the world that he established through sheer tenacity.
“I was a little bit stubborn,” Falcon says, recounting how he and his wife took several trips throughout the nation to check out small fisheries. He also researched similar operations overseas, persisting until fishermen agreed to sell to him. “Now they sometimes call me from their boat and say—‘Here’s what we caught today. You want it?’” If Falcon answers yes, the catch is iced and flown to Kansas City International Airport where he receives shipments five or six days a week.
Sea urchin, Spanish octopus, stingray, wahoo, Black Sea bass, Gooseneck barnacles from Nova Scotia—these are just a few of the more exotic dishes Falcon serves in addition to shrimp, salmon, trout and other common varieties. Because the fish is so fresh, the specials are always changing. Lately he’s been ordering from a little stall in Japan that sends four or five fish at a time. He’s particularly fond of Madai Snapper (actually a type of sea bream whose name means “king of white fish”). “Oh, man, that tastes delicious,” he says.
His most popular dishes are slightly spicy Shrimp Cucaracha served whole, pan-fried whole fish and ceviche, a dish made with raw fish that’s “cooked” by marinating in lime juice. Why the emphasis on whole? “It’s interactive,” says Falcon. “And have you heard the saying, ‘the closer to the bone the sweeter the meat? That’s true for fish, too.” For dinner companions who don’t care for seafood, he offers beef and pork entrées. And sometimes he cooks Spanish rice with a risotto technique, a dish he describes as “one of my most favorite things ever.”
The restaurant has a limited lunch menu Monday through Saturday that includes fish tacos, octopus tacos, shrimp rolls and grilled steak and shrimp plates. Specials are $1 oysters on Mondays and Wednesdays, small plates ($5 to $9) on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a brunch buffet on Sundays. A pricier option offered several times a week is the omakase, a chef’s choice tasting experience which starts at $65 for six to seven courses and requires a 48-hour reservation.
The youngest of seven siblings, Falcon grew up on the beach in the Mexican port town of Veracruz. He began cooking at an early age, helping his mother sell street food like tamales and mole. He followed family members to Kansas City, later training at a culinary institute in New York City. It was while working at a Country Club Plaza restaurant that he met his Japanese-born wife, an actuarial professional.
Falcon says sustainability is an important consideration for his business. He uses the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app when placing orders, and purchases mostly farm-raised or line-caught fish.
His Kansas City, Kan., restaurant opened with a similar menu in 2014 and quickly became popular through word-of-mouth with a crowd that includes government employees, business executives and well-known local chefs such as Jonathan Justus of Justus Drustore, Howard Hanna of The Rieger and Michael Foust of The Farmhouse. Meanwhile, Food & Wine magazine is said to be watching what he does, and a New York Times local correspondent has made reservations for an omakase.
Jarocho South is open seven days a week at 13145 State Line Rd. For reservations call 816-492-7118.