One look at the new Novel and guests will all but forget about the 100-year old house on the hill that was formerly home to the Kansas City hit. Earlier this month, chef Ryan Brazeal and pastry chef Jessica Armstrong officially reopened in a new space boasting clean lines, an open floor plan, and artistic flair in Kansas City’s Crossroads Art District.
The chefs understand the nostalgia people have for their former restaurant, which became one of the city’s most talked-about almost as soon as it opened. The two actually met and fell in love at the old Novel location. But, in their minds, all they lost in the move across downtown were the headaches that came along with a drafty old house that was never able to serve the needs of their busy restaurant and its guests. “We simply outgrew that old house on the Westside, almost as soon as we opened the doors,” says Brazeal. “My intention had always been to eventually open a place of our own in the Crossroads.”
When the new and improved Novel debuted April 16, it transformed from a charming Westside attraction into a serious new hot spot in the Crossroads Arts District. The most noticeable difference is Novel’s stylish new interior, designed by Kansas City architectural firm El Dorado. Local artist Peregrine Honig worked as an artistic consultant, informing the conversation around color, textures, lighting, and art.
Honig selected a simple, modern aesthetic for a space that feels more like a posh art gallery than a restaurant, including a long, airy dining room and tall ceilings with white beams disguising a sound dampening system. Warm wood tables and chairs from the old restaurant blend with brand-new leather banquettes. Most striking, there’s a 50-foot-long glass mosaic art installation from local tile artist Laura Rendlen depicting woodland creatures in a field of poppies.
The new restaurant offers almost the same square footage as the original location, with room for about the same number of seats — 62 inside and an additional 32 on the large outdoor patio. However, the entire space feels much bigger, now with room for larger parties and private events. The new Novel also feels more representative of its two chefs, who have combined their personal and professional lives — Brazeal and Armstrong are married with a daughter, Iris.
Brazeal opened Novel in the little house on the hill in 2013, following a stint at David Chang’s Momofuku empire in New York. Armstrong joined him in the kitchen in 2016, after earning a reputation as a talented pastry chef at Kansas City fine-dining stalwart Bluestem. With the new restaurant, Brazeal and Armstrong have built a workable space together. “I personally have grown as a chef since opening Novel, and I am looking forward to this new menu as a chance to really come into my own and serve dishes that are truly mine,” Brazeal says.
The new menu is less fussy and component-driven, instead focusing more on straightforward cooking methods like searing, grilling, and roasting. He’s added a rotating selection of fresh handmade pasta to Novel’s menu. (The agnolotti, featuring a rich combination of braised duck neck and foie gras, is an early crowd favorite.) Brazeal is also making his own bread in house for the first time. Armstrong, meanwhile, is putting out a new menu of artful desserts, including a raspberry chiffon cake, key lime pavolva, pineapple-upside down carrot cake, and a simple slice of coffee coconut cream pie with passionfruit caramel and pecan toffee.
With a shiny new bar, comes new talent to head up the beverage program at Novel. The cocktail menu was developed by their new bar manager, Jonathon “Tex” Bush, formerly the bar manager at Manifesto. General manager, Emily Katz, developed the wine list.
Both Brazeal and Armstrong are looking forward to celebrating Novel’s five-year anniversary in their new space. “This new restaurant will give both Jessica and I a chance to offer some new things to our guests,” Brazeal says, “to show them some new things.”
Jenny Vergara is Kansas City’s contributing editor for Feast Magazine, and the founder of the Test Kitchen, Kansas City’s first underground supper club.
• Novel [Official]