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Divine secrets of Ya-Ya’s 

A new Eurobistro opens in West Little Rock.

click to enlarge HALF AND HALF: The way to go at lunch.
  • HALF AND HALF: The way to go at lunch.

There's some confusion associated with the PB&J restaurant group's entry into the West Little Rock upscale market. In some cities, like Denver and Wichita, the franchise spells its name Yia Yia's. But in Memphis and now in Little Rock, it bears the simpler Ya Ya's name. EuroBistro is pronounced the same one way or another.

Regardless, it's hyped to be some pretty good food — gourmet pizzas, rich and decadent dinners, creative appetizers and salads. The sort of place you take a prom date. Which is funny, since the chain prides itself on comfort food.

The modern-meets-American Lodge decor is comfortable and inviting — we'll give them that. Dark wood, gray stone and wrought iron in the dining area adds emphasis to the uber-modern kitchen in its red lights and stainless steel glory. Plush deep booths provide plenty of room for four, maybe more.

We were greeted by first our server, then the manager — who was making a point to talk with everyone who came in that day. Moments later another server checked on us, then an assistant manager. Then another server. By the time we finished our repast we had shared words with seven different members of the staff.

We started out with a couple of appetizers (or “Euro Delights”) — the spicy shrimp pizzetta ($5.95) and the asparagus goat cheese fondue ($9.95). The pizzetta was a delicate crisp flour chip, an eight-inch rectangle cut into triangles and covered with perfectly cooked little shrimp, Peppadew peppers (which reminded us of spicy sun-dried tomatoes), a dash of chili oil and cheese.

The fondue surprised us in how unlike a fondue it appeared to be. The half dozen spears of asparagus lay under a pool of goat cheese. A small pile of greens did a good job of hiding the asparagus, and a bright, tart vinaigrette accompanied the dish, along with bread spears. The vinaigrette and cheese made an attractive and interesting pairing.

For an entree, we went for the diver sea scallops ($16.95 at lunch, $24.95 at dinner). We were initially disappointed to see just two scallops, until we realized each one was three to four ounces — huge monstrous scallops perched atop a bed of creamy orzo. The layers of flavor within the orzo — the tartness of lemon butter, the creamy base, the sweet crab-flavored reduction — perfectly complemented the solid savory scallops, which themselves were balanced well between perfectly cooked meat and the salty sear.

Our dining companion chose to go for a half-and half combination ($10.95 for your choice of half a sandwich, half a salad or soup) and was pleased. He picked half a Cambozola burger and half a grilled salmon salad. The burger was served on a Ciabatta bread, a lovely combination of fresh ground beef and pancetta with a strong smothering of Cambozola cheese — a nice balance between creamy and tart blue. The salad was a decadent pile of mixed greens, fried bits of potato, Gorgonzola and feta cheeses, walnuts, and bacon. In fact, it took a bit to find the grilled salmon beneath the layers on top, but a hearty filet was discovered and savored in the end. For lunch, it's the way to go. For dessert, we chose the cheesecake ($6.95) over the cranberry white chocolate bread pudding and a brownie a la mode dish. Though the offering was small (a mere five-inch round), it was no ordinary out-of-a-box New York-style Cheesecake. Instead, the creamy disc was a powerfully rich custard topped with bittersweet chocolate shavings and served up with a tart raspberry sauce and sweet creme anglaise.

All in all, a pleasant meal, if a bit crowded at times by the rather persistent wait staff. We were glad for the attention when it meant prompt service and our questions quickly answered, and will put down the exuberance and plentitude of available servers to opening month jitters. We'll be back … for date night.

 

Ya Ya's EuroBistro

17711 Chenal Parkway (south end of the Promenade at Chenal)

821-1144

Quick Bite

Want a drink? There's a lot to choose from — Guinness and other fancy beers on tap and nitrogen-blasted (which makes them colder), a hearty wine selection and a wide variety of signature mixed drinks. For those who prefer caffeine to alcohol, espresso and cappuccino drinks are also available. However, we were a bit surprised to find that the cost of a glass of iced tea is $2.50. Perhaps we haven't been out enough lately to understand why such a common beverage now has such a lofty price tag. We'll stick with our $4 Guinness.

Hours

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Other info

Credit cards, full bar, kid's menu available. Reservations available.

 

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