JOCO Dining: Soup’s on

The French onion soup at Cafe Provence in Prairie Village.
The French onion soup at Cafe Provence in Prairie Village.

By Charles Ferruzza

Forgive me: I haven’t jumped on this recent fascination for ramen – that fragrant bowl of noodles and broth – in quite the same way that I think, maybe, I should have.

I have my own neurotic reasons, mostly having to do with those cheap, cellophane-wrapped packages of Maruchan noodles that are wildly salty and filling and terrifyingly reminiscent of my worst penny-pinching days when I could (and did) survive on the squiggly noodles, a box of saltines and a jar of peanut butter.

Now I’d rather starve.

Ramen aside, I prefer to think of soup as the world’s greatest comfort food. Particularly when the autumn weather goes from brisk to bitter. Soup is supposed to be satisfying, not stingy. Don’t just take my word for it; the playwright Moliere wrote, “I live on good soup, not on fine words.”

When you’ve been chilled to the very core of your heart and soul and only soup – soothing hot soup – will do, I have a few restorative suggestions. None involve opening a can.

The French onion soup at Café Provence (3936 West 69th Terrace, Prairie Village) is the kind of rich, hearty potage that can easily make a complete meal (with a few slices of baguette and real butter), the sweetness of the sautéed onions and the brassy boldness of the long-simmered beef broth contrasted with the saltiness of the bacon and the slight nuttiness from the thick, gooey blanket of Gruyere cheese atop a soft crouton floating on the surface. Simply delicious.

Best-known for tiny meatballs serving as the meat component of a traditional vegetable-and-pasta starter, the Italian Wedding Soup is a marriage of fresh ingredients and rich flavors. The best version I’ve tasted in town is served at Jasper’s Restaurant (1201 West 103rd Street, Kansas City), but there’s a very compelling, addictively delicious variation served at the Italian buffet, Cinzetti’s (7201 West 91st St, Overland Park) which has the added benefit, as part of the buffet array, of being all-you-can eat.

I can say, from personal experience, that the Thom Yum soup at Hot Basil Thai Cuisine (7528 West 119th Street, Overland Park) is absolutely curative. I’ve recovered from any number of near-fatal illnesses slowly sipping this blend of protein (a choice of chicken, shrimp or tofu) stewed in fragrant galanga, lemongrass and kaffir lime broth and garnished with fresh mushrooms, tomatoes and cilantro. I love the scent so much; I’d like to wear it as a cologne.

And if the weather gets any colder, maybe I will.