Thursday, October 18, 2012

The new 1620 Savoy still has room for renovation

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Rush’s Orecchiette
  • Rush’s Orecchiette
The reincarnated 1620, now known as 1620 Savoy, attempts to cater to both patrons who prefer to get dolled up and fancified for dinner as well as those generally slouchy folks, like myself, who like to avoid stuffiness and the need to remember which spoon to use first. I’m only halfway joking, of course. If an elegant, high-end establishment can convince me that their chef’s level of expertise, ingenuity, and use of fine ingredients is worth the extra cost, I’d even be willing to squeeze into my wedding-day tuxedo and prance around like a penguin to get a taste of their culinary creations. 1620 Savoy has essentially divided their dining space in half, with one side considered the more formal, classier half and the other a supposedly more informal, come-as-you-are outfit, where one should theoretically feel comfortable in more casual attire. Currently, at 1620 Savoy , this may not be entirely relevant…at least this was the case during our recent visit. We called on a Friday night to make reservations in the “classy” side…booked solid. We asked about availabilities in the “casual” half…one table left. No problem, I was able to wear a T-shirt. Upon arrival, however, it appeared there were a good number of people aiming for the upscale half and got bumped over to the casual side, as the majority of the folks in our vicinity were dressed to the nines…suits, ties, sparkle and lace. At least I wore a clean T-shirt.

On to the food. Our table started out with a diverse course of appetizers, but unfortunately it was a rather uninspiring beginning. We began with the ricotta gnocchi in brown butter sauce, with sage, diced pancetta, and parmigiano-reggiano. Sadly, this dish was wrought with problems. The gnocci were terribly overcooked, dense, chewy, and slightly burned. The pancetta, as well, was cubed and cooked to hardened, tough bits of pork…a true shame, as pancetta has such incredible potential. The two salads that hit our table were met with little enthusiasm. The first of these included a smoked duck Caesar with roasted almonds, spinach, romaine, parmigiano-reggiano, and mushroom. There were no major issues here, the flavors were balanced but felt a little muted. The smoked duck, especially, failed to ruffle anyone’s feathers, lacking the lush, rich, fatty flavor inherent with properly prepared duck. Next came a beet and goat cheese salad with spiced pistachios…also not terrible but there was nothing enlightening. Of the appetizers ordered by our table, the black truffle risotto was clearly the favorite. The soft, creamy risotto was rich and tender, flecked with bits of grated truffle, which rarely (if ever) is a bad thing.

Ricotta gnocchi
  • Ricotta gnocchi
After a rather disappointing round one, the entrée courses were a definite improvement and brightened the spirits of all diners at our table. The “1620 Scallops” made multiple appearances within our group, and all who sampled them were pleased. The seared scallops were nicely caramelized to a golden brown, yet tender on the inside. They rested in a creamy bath of rich hollandaise accompanied by mushroom, asparagus tips, and a touch of diced jalapeño. I was worried the sauce would overpower the mild flavor of the scallop but was pleased to discover that it complimented the dish perfectly, much in the way a clam chowder nicely blends a rich, thick broth with lean, fresh seafood. Another solid choice was “Rush’s Orecchiette,” a small, spiral-shaped pasta dish tossed in a chorizo Bolognese, topped with broccolini, pancetta, and Manchego cheese. While I usually prefer Bolognese prepared with the more traditional tagliatelli or pappardelle, the oreccehiette did not distract from the hearty, warm flavors within the dish. The spicy chorizo played well in the rich, tangy tomato sauce coating each piece of pasta, and provided a nice counter-note to the mildly bitter broccolini. The pancetta, in this case, was sliced into paper thin discs, and then fried until crispy and brittle, cracking under the slightest touch of the fork. It was an interesting and unfamiliar preparation but I certainly found it to be enjoyable. Lastly, the “Duck Savoy” was a bit of a dull spot when compared to the rest of the entrees. The sauce accompanying the duck was not an issue…with hints of maple and huckleberry, the duck could not complain about its supporting cast. However, the bird was clearly overcooked and lacked the medium-rare, violet-pink glow characteristic of a well-prepared duck breast.

In general, when one drops a decent amount of coin on a meal, it’s difficult not to ask the question, “Was that worth the money?” For myself, I’d answer, “It wasn’t worth spending my money.” However, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to dining with 1620 Savoy again on someone else’s dime. I really only scratched the surface of a menu possessed of many potentially wonderful dishes—rack of lamb, veal liver, aged porterhouse, and Dover sole—but I’m not jumping at the opportunity to shell out the kind of cash they’re asking for to questionably improve my overall opinion of their restaurant rebirth.

1620 Savoy
1620 Market Street
Little Rock

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