Random thoughts and ramblings on local food and drink…
Going to The Southern Gourmasian for dinner isn’t something I do very often, and that’s a shame, because I’ve said for years now that Chef Justin Patterson is one of our very best chefs in town. This is a long, rambling way of saying our meal on Friday night was fantastic. My daughter and I split orders of ramen, Balinese Chicken Steamed Buns, and Shrimp Fried Rice. Fans of good ramen know the popular dish is hard to come by in this town. TSG’s version, although a smaller portion than many others you’ll find around the country, is priced right ($9) and quite tasty. The broth is rich and flavorful, and while the noodles are the centerpiece of any bowl, the star in the dish was the tender pork shoulder chunks scattered throughout the broth. The shrimp fried rice, with it’s meticulously-cut veggies and plump, perfectly cooked shrimp, proved to be an ideal compliment to the soup. Great service and delicious food at a reasonable cost will have me back at The Southern Gourmasian sooner than later.
If folks sometimes forget The Southern Gourmasian does a dinner service, they may also forget that The Pantry West does a mean lunch service. The Pantry doesn’t get much credit for serving one of the better lunches in town, highlighted by a stellar offering of sandwiches, including my Sauerkraut Panini with Smoked Turkey from Friday’s patio lunch. Comprised of grilled whole grain bread, tangy kraut, fontina cheese, Russian dressing, and shaved turkey, this sandwich is small and simple, but perfect for lunch. For an additional $1.50, I substituted an order of pommes frites for house chips, bringing the total cost to $11.95 … still any excellent value.
Trio’s rotates part of its menu every few weeks, something, as far as I can tell, no other restaurant does in Little Rock. The Blackened Tuna with Soba Noodles, created by Chef Shanna Merriweather, is currently on the menu and is a must-order. Ahi tuna is pan seared for what must be no more than 30 seconds per side and is seasoned to a subtle, spicy perfection. The finished product is this soft, rare piece of tuna that is just wonderful with the accompanying noodles and mixed veggies (Napa cabbage, snow peas, and bok choy). It’s all tied together with a nice ginger-mustard beurre blanc, proving once again that butter is always a great addition to any dish. My only knock on this plate? The portion of noodles and veggies was a little light.
Healthy eating and Maddie’s Place don’t typically go hand-in-hand, but it may surprise you to learn that the Riverdale restaurant does a fantastic salad of house-smoked salmon, candied walnuts, red onion, tomatoes, Romaine, and lemon herb vinaigrette. The full order costs $9.75, and given the heavy hand of salmon, this salad is an excellent value.
Quick Hits: Honey Pies is taking a stab at kolaches, and admittedly, I am very picky when it comes to these little breaded pockets of joy. Simply put, HP’s version needs some slight re-tooling. The sausage was pretty dense, making it somewhat hard to bite through and the dough needed a little sweetness to it. The Acai Bowl at Juice Bar in Midtown is not cheap (upwards of $12 after tip) but I’m hooked. I just hope that darn thing is relatively healthy. I popped into the Pop Pop Shoppe (like what I did there?), our newest and I guess only specialty popcorn store in Little Rock for a quick gift. I didn’t try any of the popcorn, but the store was bright and beautiful and the service was fast and friendly. I hope they make it, but given the store’s large size … seems like there needs to be more product being displayed. The place struck me as being little empty.