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What's cooking/Capsule reviews, Feb. 22 

What's cooking

A new restaurant owned by longtime Hot Springs area chef Rosario Dispensa has opened in the Spa City. Rosario’s Ristorante, featuring Italian and American food, opened a month ago at 1521 Malvern Ave., taking over a longtime Italian family establishment at the location. Rosario’s is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, featuring specialties such as veal marsala, red snapper, steaks and other fish entrees, and a full bar. The telephone is 501-623-4333.

 Matt White and the other new owners of the White Water Tavern have created a new menu and are serving lunch weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The club features music at night Monday through Saturday.

Hannaroo Sushi Bar on Capitol Avenue downtown is temporarily closed, according to a sign on the front door that says they are renovating both the restaurant and the menu and will “reopen soon.” The interior of Hannaroo appears to have been shuffled around, and there was someone in the building last week, but no one answered the phone.

Capsule reviews

UPDATE: VAN LANG CUISINE RESTAURANT It helps to have a pro to eat with here, because the menu is vast, with its soups and spring rolls and entrees you wrap yourself and bowls of rice noodles with treats in them and exotic non-alcoholic drinks and so forth. Our pro suggested a bowl of rice noodles with grilled shrimp and pork; a vinegary sauce came on the side to pour over the bowl. The pork was wrapped in a dumpling; the shrimp were cooked just right; the noodles were light and delicious. A bowl of clear spicy soup that we didn’t order came to the table, so we dove in. It had a slightly soapy taste, but we think if we’d actually ordered it and knew what we were doing, our brain could have changed soapy to the correct ingredient. If you don’t have a pro to go with, don’t worry; the menu has English descriptions. But there are a lot of them! This is a good place for big parties; the food comes fast (at least at lunch it does) and the restaurant is sectioned so your hooting doesn’t bother the other diners. 3600 S. University Ave. Beer and wine. CC $-$$ 570-7700 LD daily.

UPDATE: ON THE BORDER Local restaurant lovers can cry about the influx of chains all they want, but when the food tastes this good, it’s hard to dismiss. Diners flooded this Tex-Mex eatery’s first foray into Little Rock a couple of summers back, and the rush hasn’t let up -- a testament to its dependable service and tasteful presentations. The guacamole, which can be prepared tableside ($7.95 for the “live” prep), is as good as any around, and a terrific starter. There are quesadillas, nachos and the rest of the typical Tex-Mex offerings on the menu, plus some new entrees, and we caught one in a recent lunch visit. We tried the carne asada soft tacos, and just writing about them a few days later has set our mouth to watering. Unlike the carne asada you find at most Mex joints, which often tends to be a workout on the jaws, this was tender beef of filet-like texture, thinly sliced, and seasoned wonderfully. With slices of avocado, lettuce and ranch dressing to pour on top, this $9.95 entree (with rice and beans) was as good as any Mex dish we’ve had in quite some time. OTB’s cheese dip has a “Little Rock cheese dip” (re: Velvetta and Rotel) look, but possesses a serious peppery kick. So does the salsa, which we like better in the restaurant than buying it at the grocery store. 11721 Chenal Parkway. Full bar. $$ 217-9275 LD daily.

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