What's Cooking/Capsule reviews Dec. 23 

What's cooking Owner Sami Lal of Star of India in West Little Rock has increased his menu sizably with additions in all the restaurant’s various entree categories as well as new appetizers, breads and cheeses. The popularity of the beef vindaloo, for example, has spilled over to chicken lovers who requested he create a chicken vindaloo, Lal tells us. There are four new chicken entrees, two lamb additions, a beef add-on (beef saagwala), three new shrimp dishes and nine new offerings for veggies entrees. Two new rice dishes have been added, too. Star of India is at 301 N. Shackleford and is open seven days, with lunch buffets every day. Call 227-9900. As first reported on the Arkansas Blog last week, Little Rock’s Whole Hog Barbecue plans an expansion into Texas with four franchises set to open in 2005. Ed David, owner of the Faded Rose, ended up getting the building he sought, the former Buffalo Grill location on Rebsamen Park Road. That will allow David to open his planned Bubba and Garcia’s New Mexican home-cooking restaurant there this spring, while the older building that served as home to the Faded Rose — before David built a new and larger location next door — will offer Bubba and Garcia’s take-out. Capsule reviews BENNIGANS Until some recent visits, we had not been back to this restaurant since anything on University Avenue was considered west Little Rock. The long-gone crowded disco dance floor is now the smoking section, but not much else has changed. It still has that Irish scheme with the blarney menu and drink names. And all that knick-knack stuff on the walls has survived all its years of dusting. Here we were introduced to French onion soup back in the day — and it’s still served now, and we still love it. We have enjoyed full racks (an embarrassing portion) of barbecue ribs, a hard-to-hold tall stack of mushroom burger, and other fowl and fish dishes. A child’s menu has been handy this time around. We’ve liked every meal we’ve had, but our 8-year-old refused to eat the cheese pizza; we have no idea what was on that crust that bothered her. Service has been spotty, great sometimes and lacking (with apologies) on other trips. The young wait staff seemed overwhelmed at times in following orders and challenged at the computer register. Or, are we just older and impatient? 104 S. University, 664-8160. LD 7 days $$ CC Full bar. NEW TIME OUT CORNER CAFE Two strikeouts preceded this eatery on the southeast corner of Scott and Markham streets, and if this third effort doesn’t make it, its name will seem particularly apt. We are of two minds, at any rate, on whether it will. We don’t know why anyone would open a restaurant to serve canned chili and carrot cake at $5 a slice. But the chicken and dumplings we had recently were pretty good, and some chicken enchiladas, served quiche-style, were still fair-to-middling at 2:30 p.m., long after the cook dreamed them up. The small staff — only two, apparently — is always cheerful and open to suggestions, so that when customers asked that they include pints of milk in the cold drink case they did. Now, if they’d dump Biff’s coffee and brew up some decent beans, they’d probably sell more cuppas to sleepy workers and more pastries as well — with the exception of the pricey carrot cake. Art on the walls is for sale through Amy Howard Richmond Gallery next door, which may one day connect to the cafe by door, since the gallery owner and the cafe owner are one and the same. 201 E. Markham St., 372-8622. BL Mon.-Sat. $$ CC No alcohol.

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