One of the biggest shortcomings of the Little Rock food scene is that many of the chefs/restaurants tend to play it safe with menu items. Forgoing creativity in favor of familiarity, they often lose the opportunity to introduce diners to new and innovative dishes. That’s a soapbox issue I’ll save for another day, but it did get me to thinking about why I enjoyed my recent seven-course, Around the World Dinner at Forty Two (inside the Clinton Presidential Center) so much.

It was creative … and it took some chances.

Chef Burrow and his team prepared a themed menu for the evening, all part of an event the restaurant holds each month centered-around the cuisine of a chosen country. This month was Korea.

While Forty Two obviously does not specialize in Korean food, I certainly applaud them for branching out and attempting a style of food unfamiliar to both their chefs and many local diners.

Was every course a homerun? No. Some missed the mark, like the stone grilled mussels and Korean barbecue short ribs, but others were absolutely fantastic, like the bulgogi, a marinated Akaushi beef with scallions, sticky rice and soy-brewed shiitakes, as well as the Korean fried chicken, and a dessert course of street-vendor pancakes.

The insane amount of food, coupled with a low price tag and an admirable amount of risk-taking, earned Forty Two a certain amount of leniency for any minor missteps. I’ve never eaten that much well-cooked food for such a low cost, making the entire evening feel almost like an act of kindness from the restaurant. I’ll shut up now before Forty Two raises the price for September, but just know that if you’re in the mood for a fun evening filled with innovative cooking, these Around the World Thursdays provide a wonderful option.

It’s also worth noting that chef Stephen Burrow exuded a calm command over his kitchen, a trait we were fortunate enough to witness while dining at the chef’s table. He and his team rifled through course after course with a controlled, systematic precision that was both unexpected and quite impressive. And the best part? They all seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves.

As were we.

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More Info: Around the World Thursdays are held on the third Thursday of each month and cost $27.95 per person. Seating is limited and reservations are required. For more info, visit their website or call 501.537.0042

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