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What's cooking/Capsule reviews Sept. 21 

What's cooking

Look for a new menu of what Chef Billy Ginocchio calls “Southern revival” cuisine at the Mt. Magazine State Park lodge restaurant in October. It’s classic Southern food with a fine-dining twist, he says — entrees like chicken-fried veal with bourbon-sage pan gravy, grilled pork loin steak with curried peaches, and pecan-crusted catfish with lemon saffron beurre-blanc. The appetizer list will include a smoked cheddar and venison sausage cheese dip and bourbon-molasses marinated froglegs.

Also new in October: beer and wine service starts Oct. 1. The restaurant is serving only Arkansas products — Diamond Bear beer and about 20 wines from Arkansas vineyards, including an award-winning port from the Cowie winery that Ginocchio said will “stand up to any tawny port on the market.”

Capsule reviews

NEW: ARGENTA COFFEE CO. A colleague included the iced mocha in our Editors’ Choice category in the “Best of Arkansas” issue, but we’d never gotten around to trying anything from the rest of the menu. This little spot on Main Street in downtown North Little Rock, now in its own storefront after starting life in the back of the nearby Galaxy Office Furniture, serves up panini, quesadillas, salads, wraps, a couple of breakfast items and (a recent addition) hot dogs. And coffee drinks and Italian sodas, of course. You can choose from several panini named after Coffee Co. regulars (the namesake of the Cheesy Joe saw us perusing the menu and recommended his), or build your own from a list of meats and toppings. We ordered half a ham and bacon panini with tomato-basil mozzarella, spinach, tomatoes and Vidalia onion sauce, on French bread slices. (Like a lot of places, Argenta Coffee’s “half” ($5.49) is actually a whole-sized sandwich — plenty for all but the most voracious appetites. If you insist, a whole panini is $7.49.) It came out hot and crunchy, and absolutely delicious. The sauce and cheese added just the right amount of creaminess, and the basil flavor in the cheese was perfect. We skipped the tortilla chips and salsa that came on the side — the sandwich just tasted better. And even though our colleague swears by it, we skipped the iced mocha in favor of the un-iced variety. The flavor was fine, but it could have been hotter, and we’re not the type that requires our coffee to be scalding. Still, that’s a minor flaw, and we’ll definitely be back. Next time we’ll save room for dessert too — cakes and pies were listed on the menu, but we just couldn’t do it this time. Also, check out the night scene here — drop by for a beer or sangria during happy hour, salsa lessons on Thursday, and live music on Friday and Saturday. It’s a tiny place with art-covered walls, and you get the feeling it’d be real easy to break into the ranks of the regulars. The shop is open until the wee hours Friday and Saturday nights. 318 Main St., North Little Rock, 372-3670. BLD daily. $ CC beer.

UPDATE: HANAROO SUSHI BAR Do yourself and the operators of this extraordinary downtown spot a favor and pay them a visit. Though Capitol Avenue looks like a war zone, there really IS a way to pick your way through the sidewalk and utility reconstruction to get to the cozy confines of a place with a stellar offering of impeccably fresh and tasty sushi, sashimi, tempura, etc. It’s hard to pass up the spicy tuna roll lunch special ($10.95), a giant roll of sticky rice, stuffed with cucumber and tuna and topped with a spicy (but not painfully so) sauce. It comes with five other pieces for dipping – one each of tuna, salmon, shrimp, snapper and crab. The cool, mild protein leaves you satisfied but not stuffed. Service is friendly and (thanks to the construction-caused downturn in business) swift. 205 W. Capitol Ave. 301-7900 LD $-$$. CC

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