Cheers & Jeers: All Cheers, from One Eleven to Forty Two

It’s time, once again, for my periodic musings on the current goings-on in the Little Rock food scene. A time where you and I get to stroll leisurely, hand-in-hand, through my most recent escapades in eating…and little ditty I like to call “Cheers & Jeers.” Now, as you may or may not know, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus in terms of food writing, but it’s time to get back into gabbing about good grub. But seeing how I’ve got some catching up to do, I’ve decided to keep this edition of C&J to just “cheers.” Here we go…

Onion soup from One Eleven
Onion soup from One Eleven

Let’s start with what I’d consider to be one of the finest meals I’ve eaten since arriving in Arkansas. And while I expected my recent venture to the newly-opened One Eleven at The Capital to be a classy, tasteful, overall pleasant experience, I was still so thoroughly impressed with the food coming out of that kitchen, I just can’t seem to get this meal out of my head. Everything was spot-on. The remodel, the elegant but inviting dining room, the service…perfect. Our table of four put down only a small chunk of the new menu, but each of us left impressed with our selections. The starter of small rustic bread bites were delightful, a creamy version of onion soup was quickly slurped down, a rich, creamy dish of potatoes au gratin received many words of praise from each who tried it. But do not miss out on their braised short rib…it was spectacular. Tender, rich, and perfectly seasoned…accompanied by a few bits of inspired culinary craftsmanship, such as the crispy fried rosemary and thick cut bits of fatty pork belly. It was not a cheap meal…but every penny was well spent.

Veal rib from Forty Two
Veal rib from Forty Two

Another meal which left me teeming with joy came from a recent excursion to Forty-Two for their “Around the World Thursdays.” Here, we see Chef Stephen Burrow’s talent really shine as he takes to a new cuisine type every month, often from the far-reaching areas of the globe, and often presenting dishes that one won’t find anywhere else in Arkansas. I’ve made my love for Korean food widely know in the past, and I’ve often lamented the lack of it in Central Arkansas. Needless to say, Chef Burrow’s take on Korea made me one very happy man. His version of beef bulgogi with soft boiled egg, marinated mushrooms and sticky rice was really the star that night, followed by some spectacular Korean fried chicken. When Forty-Two takes on Thailand…I bet you can guess who will be there with bells on.

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Bacon cheddar tots from Ciao Baci
Bacon cheddar tots from Ciao Baci

I’ve always admired what Chef Jeffrey Owen is able to accomplish in his small kitchen at Ciao Baci. The man puts up some seriously big flavors from time to time. With a regularly rotating menu, there’s often something new to sample even for the most loyal of customers. But a recent visit brought us what I believe our best meal yet from this Hillcrest neighborhood staple. A handful of starters really set the pace, each one fantastic…fried corn fritters, tomato and goat cheese bruschetta, and spicy edamame. Not a bit of these were left on our table when we were finished. We continued to inhale what came next…fried chicken sliders and house-made bacon and cheese tots being among the best bites at our table. Get yourself to Ciao before this menu, too, becomes extinct.

Lastly, we headed way out west to Oceans at Arthurs to get a sense of what acclaimed sushi chef, Alex Guzman, had up his sleeve. I’m happy to report that things turned out exceedingly well. In Guzman, it’s safe to say you’ll find a man that clearly loves his craft. Follow Oceans’ Facebook feed and you’ll soon realize the guy is an artist fish. Sushi dishes of all sorts are done here with an attention to detail that you won’t find at many other sushi joints simply banging out California rolls. Oceans has quickly become our go-to sushi establishment.

A lot more photos…

Bread basket from One Eleven
Bread basket from One Eleven
Shrimp and grits from One Eleven
Shrimp and grits from One Eleven
Oysters Rockefeller from One Eleven
Oysters Rockefeller from One Eleven
Leeks from One Eleven
Leeks from One Eleven
Fried chicken sliders from Ciao Baci
Fried chicken sliders from Ciao Baci
Corn Fritters from Ciao Baci
Corn Fritters from Ciao Baci
Bulgogi from Forty Two
Bulgogi from Forty Two
Assorted Korean condiments from Forty Two
Assorted Korean condiments from Forty Two

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Cheers & Jeers: All Cheers, from One Eleven to Forty Two