Boulevard Bistro was completed and opened just over a year ago—an addition to the Heights bakery and shop that added a full service restaurant and bar to the Boulevard family. The kitchen has been under the watchful care of chef Chris McMillan since its opening, and he has worked tirelessly to keep the menu true to the Boulevard standards held for years. Fresh, local, and seasonal are concepts Boulevard helped introduce to Little Rock before they became common occurrences at most quality restaurants in town.
With the arrival of spring, the Boulevard Bistro team looks to introduce a menu which will make good use of the bounty of excellent produce exhibited in Arkansas. Several vegetarian-friendly dishes can be found here—and while they may be meat-free, they sacrifice nothing in flavor. I was lucky enough to be invited in to get a peek at the new menu and sample a few things during a staff tasting. The new menu went live yesterday and is available now.
The starters line-up features one of the real standouts on this seasonal menu. You’re definitely going to want to check out the “Roasted Shrimp & Gardinere Bruschetta.” Holy moly, folks…this dish was addictive. Fresh shrimp in a citrusy, vinegar heavy broth with just a touch of spice—like a more brothy/soupy cerviche. You just need to try it for yourself. They’re also cranking out a couple of beautiful house-baked focaccias. These thick, fluffy buttery loaves of bread make the perfect starting point for additional toppings such as finocchiona salami, pepperonata, fontina cheese, and arugula. There’s the vegetarian version with herbed goat cheese, roasted asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, and pickled red onions. Lastly, there’s the welcome addition of some lovely arancini…fried risotto balls stuffed with manchego cheese, harissa and a house-made aioli. An Italian classic done right here.
Entrees include one of their best dishes yet…the Gnocchi ala Romana. Fans of past versions of the bistro’s creamy and rich gnocchi will enjoy this savory, meatier version equally as much. It tops their pillowy potato gnocchi with pork sugo, San Marzano tomatoes, basil, and pecorino romano cheese. If you enjoyed the pasta bolognese they’ve done in the past, this dish is right up your alley. Vegans can enjoy their Roasted Spring Vegetable Barigoule — a hearty concoction of artichoke hearts, asparagus, fava beans, carrots, and potatoes. And as always, they’ve got a great fish dish here. Fish is one of the restaurant’s perpetual fan favorites, and I expect this will be another winner. Pan Fried Flounder comes with creamer potatoes, roasted fennel, swiss chard, and topped with lemon-caper butter.
Personally, I feel that Boulevard Bistro has really begun to hit its stride. Chef McMillan seems very comfortable in this kitchen and his dishes display a confidence that often takes time for any new restaurant to develop. His staff know and respect his food, and they’re enjoyable folks to be around. Subsequently, McMillan is putting out some of his best food yet, and proving that the Boulevard name will continue to mean quality and excellence in their food.