Chef Arturo Solis, who was part of executive chef Joël Antunes’ original crew at Ashley’s in 2013, has been named the chef de cuisine at Capital Bar & Grill. Solis is a Le Cordon Bleu graduate, and along with his time at The Capital Hotel, has worked at several luxury hotels, including The Four Seasons and The Ritz-Carlton.
In our interview, Chef Solis struck me as calm, down-to-earth, professional and very focused–all traits you look for in a seasoned, highly qualified chef. His affinity for Capital Bar & Grill was also quite evident. “When I first moved to Little Rock, CBG was the local hang out…the place to be. It’s kind of nice to work here two years later.”
Make no mistake, even though the move, in a physical sense, is a short one, the difference between the kitchens at One Eleven and Capital Bar & Grill is night and day. “CBG is tiny. I don’t know how many people actually have walked into the kitchen here but it’s really small. The fact that we do such a high volume says a lot about who’s working here and the cooks that we have. I think they’re all very talented and dedicated,” says Solis.
So what can we expect from a chef with Spanish roots and classical French cuisine training?
“I love cooking with a lot of vegetables, so my food is very produce driven. I like the simplicity of a charred vegetable on the plate with a dollop of mayonnaise. Obviously, this is not the setting for that, so we will try to mix and match those elements. My style is simple, natural cooking,” says Solis.
Changes, tweaks, updates, and additions will be made to the current menu. The complete, updated version is tentatively set for release at the beginning of June. Expect subtle changes, but definitely noticeable ones. Says Solis, “CBG is established, so we’ll keep a lot of the classics, but we do want to move forward and establish food that’s a little more ‘bar’…a little more casual and shareable. We will be incorporating a more seasonal menu. I think the seasons dictate what we should be cooking.”
And no, the pimento cheese isn’t going anywhere.
But you can expect to see a menu filled with lighter flavors, fresh vegetables, in-house charcuterie, and increased pork items, along with a plentiful selection of bar-style food that’s accessible, yet refined.
Everything I sampled, including the Pickled Egg Salad, Grilled Sourdough and Cornichon, Grilled Romaine Hearts Salad, Pickled Shrimp with Summer Squash, Chicken Liver Pate with Strawberry Preserves, and Fried Biscuits with Whipped Smoked Trout, not only tasted fantastic, but definitely articulated the new direction of CBG’s upcoming menu. Those biscuits, which I predict will be wildly popular for those looking to nibble on a nice bar bite/appetizer, are loaded with spices and fried to perfection. Other new menu items to keep an eye on include: Cider Glazed Chorizo Sausage, Charred Avocado with Shrimp and Citrus Salad, and Sweet Corn Vichyssoise, along with updated versions of the 12 oz. Pork Chop and Pan Seared Trout, just to name a few.
In a market like Little Rock, young, innovative chefs don’t come along everyday. News of Solis moving over to CBG’s kitchen is not only exciting, but also potentially quite impactful. Capital Bar & Grill is one of our most iconic restaurants, a haven for out-of-towners and established residents alike, and its success is not only important for the restaurant but also for our town’s entire dining scene.
“We’re going to try to make it fun. All I can wish for is that people will like the food,” says Solis.
So far, so very good.