Archive for category The Dish

The Dish: Black Pepper Chicken at China Garden

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Monthly Feature, By Jarred Kibbey

Each month, Jarred highlights one of his favorite dishes from around Little Rock.

The second floor of the UALR Bowen School of Law Library likely still smells like Chinese food. Black Pepper Chicken to be more specific. Dinner meal D17 from China Garden to be exact.

I remember the first time I tried China Garden. It was during finals on my 2L year. We had been studying all day and we were stressed, tired, and hungry. A friend suggested we go get takeout from this Chinese place right down the road. I had driven by this restaurant a hundred times and nothing about its bright orange and unkempt exterior made me want to try it, so my response was, “no thanks, I would rather not get food poisoning.” They returned 15 minutes later and raving about the black pepper chicken, so I had to try a bite. I was hooked and demanded that we get takeout from there the very next day.

The chicken bits are perfectly fried and then tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. And like any good fried guilty pleasure, it is plenty salty. If you look closely at each piece, you can see small crystals of what I can only assume are salt or sugar. (note: I have other ideas of what these small crystals could be, but The Mighty Rib asked me to refrain from posting my thoughts). I recently went back there before writing this piece to see if it was like I remembered and it did not disappoint.

To say I ate this dish often in law school would be an understatement. I was a regular there. I frequented it so many times that once after winter break was over the owner asked where I had been. I wasn’t sure what he was getting at, so I asked. He simply responded, “I haven’t seen you, but I know school has started back, because I asked a professor if school wasn’t back in session of if you had graduated.”

Like many dishes that I truly love, I shared this with many classmates, who then shared it with others. During my last year of law school, you could find someone enjoying this dish somewhere in the library almost round the clock, if you didn’t see it being eaten, you could most certainly smell it. That is what I am confident that the smell of black pepper chicken still lingers in the Bowen Law Library.

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Wonton Soup is the Way to Go at Pho Thanh My

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I love wonton soup, always have , always will.

Truth be told, much of it is a sentimental thing, as I remember eating a bowl of wonton soup as early as age four. When I got sick as a kid, my dad would always bring me home a vat of it. Nowadays, restaurants don’t tend to put much love into wonton soup. It’s the boring inclusion on a combination plate, usually served in a tiny cup that takes about two minutes to down.

But there’s good news. If you love wonton soup as much as I do, you really need to check out Pho Thanh My. It’s listed as “M2” on the menu and is a massive bowl of broth, filled with wontons, thinly sliced pork, chopped green onions, and cilantro. Here’s the thing that separates this wonton soup from many others out there … PTM serves its standard plate of herbs, sprouts, and jalapenos with it, just like they do with their pho. So, in essence, it’s this kicked up, awesome version of a classic.

The wontons, themselves, are pork-filled and have a nice, firm bite to the wrapper. They are they star of this soup, as they should be. I think it’s absolutely essential to add the jalapenos and sprouts to the soup. You probably don’t want to eat the actual slices of jalapenos if you’re a wimp like me, but resting them in the broth as you eat adds an amazing flavor to the soup.

At $8.95 for a huge bowl, you’re also talking about an excellent value, as I’ve yet to consume it all. Just be careful, if you’re a slob like me, you might not want to wear the best clothes. Much like a good bowl of pho, this wonton soup tends to splatter.

Listen, this post isn’t meant to knock the pho at PTM. It’s solid, but I think Mike’s Cafe is a tad better. When I want pho, I go there. When I want great wonton soup … the best I’ve found in Little Rock … I go to Pho Thanh My.

Side note, service tends to suck sometimes at Pho Thanh My, but it was spot-on for yesterday’s lunch. Fast, friendly, and very attentive, it was nice to see the service match the great food.

Pho Thanh My
302 N Shackleford Road
Open Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

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The Queens Deluxe at NYPD Pizza

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NYPD Pizza has been serving up some of this town’s best pizza for a few years now.

The restaurant gets very little attention, probably in large part because of its far West Little Rock location. Often times, folks in this town just hate driving more than 15 minutes for anything, and that includes good pizza. Sorry, it’s true.

Now, I say NYPD has good pizza, but specifically, I can only vouch for one pie … The Queens Deluxe. It’s so tasty that we never order anything else.

The Queens Deluxe is NYPD’s version of a supreme pizza, loaded with sausage, pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and mozzarella cheese. The key to this pizza is the ample, yet not overwhelming amount of toppings that rest on the thin, New York-style crust. Heck, you can even fold each slice and eat it as New Yorkers do. The crust is thin and chewy in the middle with a nice crispiness on the ends. Also, count me a fan of the thinly sliced veggies. I hate when you get big chunks of green pepper on the pie. Same with onions. It’s this attention to detail and meticulous application of the other toppings that separates NYPD’s pizza from much of the competition.

Will you be transported straight to New York after biting into this pizza? No. Absolutely not. But it’s pretty damn good and certainly falls in my Top 5 pizza joints in Little Rock. It’s also worth mentioning that leftover NYPD reheats quite well in the oven. 400 degrees for about 10 minutes should do the trick.

NYPD Pizza
6015 Chenonceau Blvd
Open Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Area delivery available; Take-out

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The Dish: Chicken 65 at Flavor of India

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Monthly Feature, By Jarred Kibbey

Each month, Jarred highlights one of his favorite dishes from around Little Rock.

I have said it many times and I will say it again, Indian food is my comfort food. There is something about the curries, samosas, and naan that make me just want to eat a big meal and then take a nap. This was particularly damaging to my afternoon work productivity when I worked within walking distance to an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet. I can safely say that I have tried almost every Indian dish in town, but there is one dish that stands out above all others.

Chicken 65 at Flavor of India.

I have a love/hate relationship with this dish. I love it because it’s incredibly flavorful with an abundance heat, but it still maintains delicate flavors. I hate it (or rather, myself) because I am convinced that it is the ultimate midnight snack. The instructions for eating this dish are very specific:

1) Order any dish not named Chicken 65 and enjoy. I suggest the Lamb Kadai (spice level medium) with garlic naan.
2) Place a to-go order of Chicken 65.
3) Upon arriving home, place Chicken 65 in fridge.
4) Wait until you are almost ready for bed (but preferably before you brush your teeth) and remove from fridge.
5) Eat the dish cold, directly from the container, while standing in front of open fridge.
6) Hate yourself.

This dish has everything I love in a midnight snack. It somehow gets better when it is cold. It is spicy with a hint of sweetness. It is fried. All of these things make it for a great dish to enjoy right before bed and then wish you hadn’t the next day.

Most Indian restaurants in Little Rock serve Chicken 65, but Flavor of India’s is unlike any other in town. Some establishments drown it in sauce and the breading cannot hold up and turns in to soggy bits of chicken in sauce. Others put way too much breading and it is like eating a spicy chicken nugget. Lastly, no other version in town has the balance of so many spices that Flavor of India is able to accomplish.

Flavor of India is one of my go-to places for take-out and it is specifically because of this dish. Yes, Flavor of India is convenient for me, but no more inconvenient that other Indian restaurants in WLR. It is the Chicken 65 that keeps me coming back to this place, and the main reason I wake up at 3:00 a.m. wondering why I can’t exercise even the slightest modicum of self-control right before bed.

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