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What's cooking/capsule reviews 

What's cooking? Chef and owner Mike Selig is transforming his Vermillion Bistro, which he opened at 17200 Chenal Parkway in late 1999, into Vermillion Italian Bistro beginning Monday, May 23. “We’re going to solid, old-world Italian cuisine, the basic, traditional Italian,” he said. The restaurant will enclose its bar and will be adding a patio. Diners can enjoy fresh mozzarella made in the restaurant, cheese grated tableside and infused olive oils. “We’ll make everything from scratch in the restaurant, right down to the ice cream, same as before,” Selig said. “Everybody has been begging us to do Italian and this seemed like a natural time to do it. All of the old Vermillion Bistro will be gone, but you can still get some of the stuff at the Water Grille.” At Selig’s Vermillion Water Grille at Third and Commerce in the River Market district, he’ll be adding a free-standing raw bar featuring oysters, crab claws and shrimp within the next month. From the Garden is a new vegan restaurant that has opened at 1820 Izard St., where Izard intersects Wright Avenue. The restaurant offers different entree specials daily and other staples such as barbecue tofu, black-eyed pea patties, squash and yams, along with greens, salads and more. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday. It’s closed Saturday. The phone number is 374-8494. Capsule reviews LENNY’S SUB SHOP We may never completely stop mourning the late great TNT Subs, but Lenny’s sandwiches are the best we’ve found yet for easing the pain. On our last trip, we ordered a “Regular” — provolone, ham and capicola. We took a chance and said yes to the hot pepper relish, and were glad we did — it had enough heat to add zing to the sandwich without scorching our admittedly weeny tastebuds. Another in our party ordered a Philly cheesesteak and was well satisfied. We both ordered the “regular” size, priced at $4.15 and $5.15 respectively. We could have split one sandwich and had plenty, so we can’t imagine who’d need a large, but they’re on the menu nonetheless. They were happy to wrap our leftovers to go, though. Another nice touch: an employee made regular rounds among the tables offering drink refills. In all, Lenny’s offers 18 sandwiches, hot and cold, and three salads for the low-carb crowd. 11401 Financial Centre Pkwy., 225-9800. 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun. $ CC CASA VIVA The last time we reported on this place, we warned that the restaurant, blaming the rising cost of cheese and avocados, was making you pay extra for cheese dip and guacamole –- that it didn’t come complimentary with the all-you-can-eat Deluxe dinner. Well, happy days are here again: Cheese dip and chips are part of the $8.95 deal, and you get a free dollop of guac for your taco, or you can by large side dishes of both items ($1.95 for the Velveeta-like dip or $2.95 for the green stuff). That’s the good news; the bad was that we made the mistake of cutting open our chicken enchilada and, well, it didn’t pass the this-looks-safe test. It kinda had this ground-up look. Maybe people like it that way. The rest of the plate was fine, and being that we were in an all-you-can-eat mood, we wolfed it down, even the pile of pasty beans and rice. The best thing about the plate was the taco, with its thin crunchy shell, and the beef enchilada with its brown gravy. The cheese that’s doused on the enchiladas is that glo-orange looking stuff that, as we’ve gotten older, has been a little more of a turnoff, too. We used to love places like this (its predecessor, Casa Bonita, and the Poncho’s chain around Dallas), where we could raise our flag over and over and get the help to come running. Now, mostly, we just wanted a sweet tea refill (good sweet tea, by the way), and another long-lost fun memory of our youth: sopapillas, which we could fill until honey dripped out the top and down the sides of the pastry. Village Center, 3901 S. University Ave. No alcohol CC $$ 562-6363 LD daily.
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