I’ve never been one to shy away from a good chef’s tasting menu. It’s a rare opportunity to partake in a true sampling of the restaurant’s overall menu. Its smaller portions mean more variety, and for someone like myself who enjoys giving his opinion on food, it makes for an ideal dining experience. And let’s face it, in Little Rock, tasting menus aren’t exacting growing on trees, so when you see one, you jump on it.

For the past several months, I’ve been wanting to try out Ciao Baci’s 5-course tasting menu. Cooler evening temps and a friend’s suggestion to dine on CB’s patio prompted me to try it out.

First, let’s get to the nitty gritty. The cost is $45, which is no small price to pay for any meal, but given the amount of food, quality ingredients, and execution, it really is an excellent value.

My meal from last week began with a fried popcorn crawfish amuse-bouche. This gorgeous meal starter of skewered crawfish and a delightful corn relish gave way to the first course, a bowl of roasted garlic cream soup topped with fried onions. While the soup was far less creative than the popcorn crawfish, it certainly didn’t disappoint in the taste department. Within minutes, out came an order of shrimp and grits, followed a third course of steak and frites. These were definitely my two favorite courses of the evening, highlighted by a small pile of greens resting atop creamy grits for the second course and two chunks of perfectly cooked flat-iron steak on the plate that followed. The frites, lacking an ideal crispness, definitely took a backseat to the steak, a slight imperfection in an otherwise fantastic dinner.

The meal rounded out with courses four and five–a creamed cheese with toasted bread and pepper syrup and a refreshing watermelon granita. Again, both courses were tasty and well executed, a common theme throughout the meal.

If you’re wanting to splurge bit, I’d highly encourage you to try out this tasting menu, and for that matter, any tasting menu you come across. Although most “upscale” restaurants in our area don’t openly promote them, just ask the chef/manager/owner about availability.

As for Ciao Baci’s tasting menu… it’s an absolute winner.

Ciao Baci
605 N. Beechwood Street
Phone: (501) 603-0238
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; Saturday 4 p.m.–1 a.m.; Kitchen open Monday-Friday 4 p.m.-1 a.m. and Saturday 4 p.m.-12 a.m.
Important Info: Reservations are preferred, yet not required. To ensure quicker seating, call ahead at any time.

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