Upscale Caribbean dishes and earthy Ethiopian fare unite at Mesob Restaurant & Rhum Bar. A partnership between Haitian-born Cherven Desauguste and Mehret Tesfamariam, who hails from Eritrea, Mesob opened in a new location in the Midtown-Westport neighborhood a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Missouri. With more visibility and a stage for live music – not to mention a more refined menu that still packs a flavor punch – Mesob was drawing increasingly bigger crowds.
Although things have since quieted down at the restaurant, Desauguste hasn’t slowed down. During the pandemic, he’s revamped the menu for carryout, finalized the dining room décor and launched his own line of plateware. At Mesob, which is currently seating at half capacity, Desauguste has also curated a new bar program focused exclusively on rhum agricole, a style of rum originally distilled in the French Caribbean islands from fresh-pressed sugarcane juice rather than molasses.
As he continues to work all the angles, Desauguste says he hopes to ensure that Mesob not only survives this difficult situation but also thrives afterward.
What makes the food you serve at Mesob special? It is the mix of many cultures that we bring together under one roof. We serve both Ethiopian dishes and Caribbean dishes at Mesob, and Caribbean cuisine is true fusion cuisine, as it incorporates small bits from every country that landed there. I try to do the same with my cooking. I take all of those flavors and interpret them the best way I know how on the plate. Once you try any of my dishes, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. I sometimes serve goat stew with okra, [for instance, which] is considered a staple in West Africa, where it is eaten with fufu. [Most] of the spices that I use, such as clove, cardamom, turmeric and cumin, were cultivated in Asia and Africa before landing in the Caribbean. Ginger is [another] good example and is something that I use in both my curry shrimp and my caramel sauce.
Tell us more about the Rhum Bar inside Mesob. Rhum with an “h” is French-style [rum] made from fresh-pressed sugarcane [juice], making it less processed than the traditional English-style rum, and it is commonly found in the Caribbean. It tastes a bit bolder in flavor than regular rum. I have used it to create a tropical rhum-based cocktail menu, [plus] I have worked with several different liquor reps to amass a premium selection of traditional sipping rhums, which you would drink neat or on the rocks like you would bourbon or whiskey. This is how we drink it in Haiti, and no one in Kansas City is really offering that experience with rhum, so I thought it made sense that we own it.
What inspired your line of plateware, Cherven Tableware Supplies? I was having a hard time finding unique plateware. I wanted color and texture on my plates, [and] I thought, who better to sell plateware than a chef? I found three international companies that had the type of plates I was looking for, so I ordered inventory. At this point, I have launched my website, cherventableware.com, and I am warehousing and fulfilling all the orders myself. If this gets big enough, I’ll need to locate a fulfillment house to do this work for me. My bestseller? I have a beautiful appetizer plate that is black and textured with gold accents that has been popular.
Mesob Restaurant & Rhum Bar, 3601 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri, mesobkc.com