Hard to find treasure
But the Plaza at Rogers is worthy of the search.
ROGERS — In the course of reporting for our review of a recent fabulous experience at the Plaza at the Village at the Creeks, we learned that its time in this swanky shopping center is limited.
In the owner’s eyes, it’s that old matter of location, location, location — and the restaurant plans to head north in the spring.
The corporate vendors in the area (re: Wal-Mart) know where the place is, as evidenced by the filled tables at lunchtime — the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal gave the place a five-star rating not long ago. But dinner turnout seems sparse, even on a Fayetteville football game weekend, as we noticed.
It’s not the food that’s keeping people away. We were wowed by our meal — our selections ranged from salmon to veal marsala to a filet to traditional Mediterranean paella.
It might be the prices, though high-dollar restaurants abound in Wal-Mart’s vicinity. A friend of ours out with the family the same night we were there complained later about his tab of $500-plus for dinner for seven. Coincidentally, our dinner for four ran the same average, about $70 a head. This included tip, wine, appetizers, salads and the entrees, which range from $20 for the salmon to $26 for the filet.
You can get away without maxing out the credit card at the Plaza, but you can also get so caught up in the experience that splurging seems the only option. That’s how it was for us.
From the comfortable decor of the place — dark carpeting, walls, dim lighting, a spectacular bar as the centerpiece of the place — to the solid wait staff and our four-course meal and wine, it was a dining experience our foursome isn’t likely to forget.
What impressed us most about the menu was seeing paella offered. We’ve lucked into discovering this Spanish treatment of seafood in restaurants on the East Coast, and we’ll put this version up with the best we’ve had: grilled shrimp and mussels with super-spicy Italian sausage (though the menu deemed it “mild”) and served on saffron risotto with a seasoned broth.
All our food was elegantly presented, from the pan-seared crab cake — almost completely crabmeat, very little breading filler — to our salads (the Caesar was exquisite) to the entrees and finally to our two desserts.
If any food disappointed, it was the Bailey’s Irish Cream creme brulee, which fell well short of our other choice, a key lime pie that was light and heavenly.
The Plaza’s menu changes out seasonally, though some items are always offered. Desserts are prepared daily. The wine list isn’t overly pricey compared to most restaurants — we enjoyed a Kendall-Jackson pinot noir that ran $30, the least expensive of the red bottles offered — and because it’s in dry Benton County, the restaurant is technically a private club. We only had to sign a register to join.
Owner Kathy Nelson opened her restaurant three years ago, basing it on Robin Riker’s famed Plaza in Eureka that has since closed.
Nelson plans to move the Plaza next spring to Rainbow Curve, a shopping center going up at Walton Boulevard. That should enhance visibility, according to Plaza general manager Yoshi Yamamoto.
“People can’t find us,” he said. “They turn around and leave. Even coming from the Embassy Suites right near us, they tell people where we are, they go looking for us and can’t find us. I never thought location was a problem in this business, that if you had a good product people would find you, but this has betrayed my thinking on that.”
In the meantime, we’ll help you find the place a little better. In daylight, it’s pretty obvious. At night, take exit 83 off Interstate 540, enter the Village at the Creeks and look toward the right side of the complex, where a sign reading “The Plaza” is strategically placed. Walk into the middle of the shopping center; the restaurant faces a beautiful reflecting pool/fountain there. Ask for a window table for the best view, unless you’d rather keep your eyes on your date at dinner.
The Plaza at the Village
5201 Village Parkway (off I-540, exit 83)
Care is obviously taken in every item cooked, and no expense is spared — take, for instance, high-dollar saffron in the risotto of our paella. A crab cake is just that — a cake of crabmeat, lots of it. Your check may be large at the end of the meal, but you’ll get your money’s worth.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Saturday and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Credit cards accepted. Full bar.