Thoughts on my recent eating experiences around Little Rock…
I’ve never been to Star of India for dinner, which, after last Friday night, I’m realizing was a big mistake. Everything we ordered (no buffet at night) was pretty much fantastic, including vegetable samosas, saag paneer, chicken tikka masala, chicken tikka, and lamb with garlic. Specifically, the chicken tikka with its tender, flavorful chicken and grilled onions and peppers was the hit of the table. I’m a mixer and there’s not a better cuisine to mix than Indian food. The flavors and textures all meld together, making for a wonderful, spice-filled plate of food. Service was excellent, which came as no surprise, as Mr. Sami has one of the best reputations for hospitality in our local food industry. I’ve always associated Star of India with being a popular buffet lunch spot, but after seeing a full restaurant on a Friday night, it’s evident the dinner service also does quite well.
It’s way early to truly form an opinion of the restaurant, but my Friday afternoon lunch at Mr. Hui’s in the Pleasant Ridge Shopping Center (near Belk) didn’t exactly inspire me to come racing back. Servers didn’t seem very knowledgeable of the menu, which, to their defense, was quite expansive. I decided to be a little adventurous and order the Frog Hot Pot, which did include a ton of tasty frog, but it was oddly served on a cast iron fajita-type skillet. Granted, it came out sizzling and piping hot but it was a weird presentation, and overall, the food was too salty and saucy. The frog was definitely the best part. Thumbs up on the the steamed dumplings appetizer as well as my buddy’s entree of squid with pork, but my other friend’s seafood clay pot didn’t agree with me at all. It tasted and smelled like the sea … and not in a good way. Take my opinion with a grain of salt , as my three other tablemates enjoyed the soup. In the end, Mr. Hui’s strikes me as a restaurant where you need to find 3-4 dishes you really like and just stick with them. This isn’t a bad thing, but it may take you a few visits to figure it out.
Going 2+ months without kBird isn’t a good thing, so I was happy to get back to one of my favorite lunch spots in town last week. I kept my lunch light and simple, ordering my standard green papaya salad. By now you’re sick of me saying it’s on of the best dishes in town, so I’ll just mention that it was as good as usual. Fresh, spicy, sour, and slight sweet … the trademark characteristics were all there.
We checked out another great concert at South on Main on Saturday night, and, of course, also ate a bunch of food. We started out with the addictive fried cauliflower popcorn, along with the skillet bread of the evening, a pickled carrots and beet concoction with goat cheese. Big thumbs up on the cauliflower. I also enjoyed the toppings on the skillet bread, but thought the bread itself was small and dense. In the past, the bread has been bigger and lighter, making it not only more visually appealing but tastier. The four entrees that hit the table were all hits. I can only speak for the Snapper with Zucchini Latkes and Tomato Jam, but I also heard good reports on the Stuffed Pepper with Cous Cous, the Rabbit Leg with Country Ham, and the Grilled Ribeye. I washed everything down with an Old Fashioned, a Hemmingway Daiquiri, and a cup of coffee to end the evening,which were all excellent. The snapper has quickly become one of my favorite dishes at South on Main. I love how crispy they get the fish skin and the tomato jam adds a delicious sweet and smokiness to the dish. The plate is light and fresh, making for a perfect late night dinner. Well, it was late for me. I’m old.