Cheers & Jeers: From Buttercream to Bad Eel, Mongolian Beef to Biscuits and Gravy

Welcome back, folks, to my periodic musing on all things good and bad going into my belly. Overall, it’s been a happy time for eating in our household…and since my last Cheers & Jeers, we’ve been through one major holiday, several shopping trips, and three birthdays…plenty of opportunities to eat around Little Rock. Here’s how things went down:

Cheers to a completely crave-able cake. I called upon the talents of Kelli Marks of Sweet Love to make my wife’s birthday a memorable one and she delivered some of her best work yet. She created a cake I’ve tasted before at another event, but I enjoyed it so much, I knew I needed to eat it again. It’s a cranberry and apple cake slathered in thick brown sugar buttercream…and it’s absolutely delightful. Not a crumb survived at our house and I was a birthday hero for selecting such a fine celebratory cake.

Mr. Cheng's beef
Mr. Cheng’s beef

Cheers to Chinese food from Mr Cheng’s. We visited the new North Little Rock Chinese restaurant, Mr. Cheng’s, recently and left very pleased with what was coming out of their kitchen. (And in case you’re wondering, it’s related to the Little Rock staple, “Mr. Chen’s” off University Ave., with a similar menu but separate ownership).The restaurant sits in the same space that once housed “Lemongrass Asian Bistro” just off McCain Blvd. Some dishes shone brighter than others and my Mongolian Beef was probably the best item on our table…a huge mound of tender, salty beef, laced with scallion and white onions. Their Chicken Chow Fun was another dish I’d definitely order again…with long strands of springy noodles, tender chunks of chicken, and sliced vegetables. Check this place out next time you’re in the area.

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Jeers to a less-than-stellar cup of cocoa. It’s no secret that I love Loblolly with my whole heart and consider it one of Little Rock’s greatest culinary treasures…but we had some issues with our hot chocolate at our last visit to the Green Corner Store. Earlier versions of this cold weather drink have been sensational, but what we got recently was not so hot. It was spiced with cardamom and swirled with Nutella, but it lacked that thick, dense, creamy component I’ve come to love from their sipping chocolate and was a bit too thin and watery. We’ll definitely be back for another sample…but I’m hoping they’ll be able to work out any kinks before then. My two scoops of peppermint ice cream, however, were fantastic.

Cheers to another beautiful breakfast at The Root. Ask anyone in Little Rock where the best breakfast is served…90% of the time, you’ll hear it’s at The Root…and I’ve got no argument with that statement. A recent trip there brought me the most perfect biscuits and gravy. Two scratch-made biscuits, slathered in rich, peppery sausage gravy and a side of two over-easy eggs. It’s truly the breakfast of champions and one of my favorite morning plates in Little Rock.

Kiyen's funky fish
Kiyen’s funky fish

Jeers to sub-par sushi. We recently reported on an unfortunate experience at Kiyen’s, but I felt they needed another chance. This was my second trip to here…my first visit being, overall, a positive experience. But there were just too many mistakes made on this recent visit to make me want to return any time soon. We selected several sushi rolls this Saturday, and not much else (despite having a menu offering some intriguing Korean dishes I’ve been meaning to sample). Our sushi ranged from “fine” to “forgettable.” The most unappetizing roll featured some smelly eel that certainly tasted like it had been many weeks since it last saw the sea. Another unpleasant selection came topped in “spicy salmon” that appeared to have been ground, almost to a paste, then molded and slapped on top of rolled rice filled with imitation crab. The texture was so off-putting, it soured the whole plate. Kiyen’s seems to have a lot more to offer, so I hope for a more favorable result on my next visit.

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Cheers & Jeers: From Buttercream to Bad Eel, Mongolian Beef to Biscuits and Gravy