A look inside Cache, opening Jan. 7th | Rock Candy

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A look inside Cache, opening Jan. 7th

Posted By on Thu, Dec 26, 2013 at 6:06 PM

Tasmanian Salmon (Oven dried tomato, beet ribbons, creamed leaks, seasonal mushrooms)
  • Photo: Suzanne Guymon
  • Tasmanian Salmon (Oven dried tomato, beet ribbons, creamed leaks, seasonal mushrooms)

If Cache, the newest downtown restaurant in the Arcade Building, is any indication of what 2014 has in store for the Little Rock restaurant scene, we are in for a very exciting year. Cache (pronounced “cash”) is being billed as an “urbane, contemporary dining and drinking establishment,” and hopes to offer something unique to Little Rock diners—fine dining in an attractive setting, without the pretense or price. But it will be immediately clear to most diners, even before they take their first bite at Cache that this place is unlike anything else in Little Rock.

I was able to walk through the place recently with Matt Cooper, the young chef formerly of the Chenal Country Club and Lulav, as he described his vision for Cache, his inspiration for the menu, and what he felt this new restaurant meant for Little Rock. Cooper is confident, collected, and casual. He sports some elegant ink-work down both arms, a dark, trim goatee, and large pearl-white gauges in both ears. He’s professional but relaxed—in truth, he’s the embodiment of everything Cache hopes to be.

Left: The main dining room. Right: Chef Matt Cooper
  • Left: The main dining room. Right: Chef Matt Cooper

***Lots more after the jump***

Chili Encrusted Hanger Steak (Sunchoke, lemoncello greens, espresso sea salt, chipotle cherry caponata)
  • Photo: Suzanne Guymon
  • Chili Encrusted Hanger Steak (Sunchoke, lemoncello greens, espresso sea salt, chipotle cherry caponata)

Braised Rabbit Caramelle (Fresh herbs, grana, pomegranate, spaghetti squash, speck)
  • Photo: Suzanne Guymon
  • Braised Rabbit Caramelle (Fresh herbs, grana, pomegranate, spaghetti squash, speck)

The space is impressive—quite impressive. The likes of it, I’ve not seen anywhere else in Little Rock. The Capital Hotel/Ashley’s, of course, rivals any restaurant in the world in terms of elegance and class, but Cache carries with it a different definition of modern class, both grandiose and down-to-earth at the same time. It’s large—around 10,000 square feet, with seating for around 200. The second floor houses a bar and lounge area that’s as contemporary and hip as any you’ll find in the state. If Justin Timberlake were in town and looking for a spot to drink the night away, he’d be found at Cache.

We walked through the main dining area with dark wood tables and elegantly draped and upholstered burgundy furniture. The activity in the kitchen is in plain view of all diners as the enormous cooking and preparation space is nearly wall-less and completely open. It’s a world full of glass balls and stainless steel, dark hues and LED lighting. Large pieces of contemporary art fill the wall space, fire and water, incomparable views of the Rivermarket, but also enough quiet, sectioned off space to allow for intimate dining when so desired. It’s difficult to leave the place unimpressed.

While Cooper will function primarily as operations manager at Cache, the kitchen will be headed by chef Payne Harding, the 27 year-old son of Rush Harding, CEO of the Little Rock investment firm, Crews & Associates. Payne Harding only recently graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York in 2012. It’s probably safe to say that this is quite an undertaking for a fresh-faced chef only recently stepping out of the classroom and into his own kitchen—and heading a restaurant of this caliber, so soon out culinary school, would be most chefs' wildest dream.

And the menu? Expect a broad range of prices and cuisine types. It’s difficult, really, to pigeonhole Cache into a single genre, but expect something familiar and classic, presented with elegance and style. Lunches will run in the $10-20 range, while dinner will cost you anywhere from $20-80 per plate. And if you’ve really got some dinero burning a hole in your pocket, there’s the chef’s table offering, which will put you back around $1000. Cooper, who did the bulk of the menu design, is attracted to rustic dishes with classic flavors, but hopes to bring them new life in this modern, trendy setting. They’re aiming to serve “top quality ingredients at reasonable prices.” The menu will change periodically—expect seasonal and local wherever possible. Of course you’ll find assistance from Arkansas producers, too—Boulevard Bread, Kent Walker Cheese, Hillcrest Artisan Meats, Dempsey Bakery, and Armstead Farms, just to name a few.

They’re offering a number of fine seafood options, a feat not always easy to pull off in Arkansas—oysters with pancetta, tuna tacos with black garlic, clams, calamari, and pastrami cured salmon. Paella with shellfish makes an appearance on the dinner menu, something we don’t see all too often. A few other interesting options include a New Zealand rack of lamb, prosciutto wrapped rabbit, and Tasmanian salmon. A handful of pasta options round off the current dinner menu—braised rabbit caramelle, duck pappardelle, and crab tagliolini.

Look for Cache to open officially on January 7th for both dinner and lunch. If the food can deliver a performance as impressive as the restaurant surrounding it, Little Rock is surely in for a spectacular downtown dining experience.

Cache is located at 425 President Clinton Ave. 501-850-0265

Spicy Seared Big Eye Tuna (Mango rice, julienne sugar snap salad, ginger sesame dressing)
  • Photo: Suzanne Guymon
  • Spicy Seared Big Eye Tuna (Mango rice, julienne sugar snap salad, ginger sesame dressing)

Left: Second floor bar/lounge. Bottom Right: From the outdoor balcony
  • Left: Second floor bar/lounge. Bottom Right: From the outdoor balcony

From the bar/lounge area, second floor
  • From the bar/lounge area, second floor

Truffle Polenta (Crispy polenta, seasonal mushrooms, frisee, goat cheese)
  • Photo: Suzanne Guymon
  • Truffle Polenta (Crispy polenta, seasonal mushrooms, frisee, goat cheese)

Heirloom Beet Salad (Honey yogurt vin, fennel, pecans, apple, blood orange)
  • Photo: Suzanne Guymon
  • Heirloom Beet Salad (Honey yogurt vin, fennel, pecans, apple, blood orange)

Mero Sea Bass and Scallops  (Heirloom cauliflower cream, black truffle, cerignola olive, chive, cipolini)
  • Photo: Suzanne Guymon
  • Mero Sea Bass and Scallops (Heirloom cauliflower cream, black truffle, cerignola olive, chive, cipolini)

Second floor bar
  • Second floor bar

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