While it’s true that La Terraza Rum and Lounge has only been open in Hillcrest for six months, the restaurant brought with it a rich history from Venezuela, where it operated in the capital city of Caracas. Yeimer and Sara Bolaños-Lara have brought to Little Rock a restaurant seeped in South American comfort food and globetrotting European sensibilities. The result is a restaurant unlike any the area has ever seen; it’s not everyday you find a place serving arepas and pasta tossed in a cheese wheel on the same menu.
And with years of experience under their belts before ever coming stateside, the team at La Terraza has a wide variety of dishes it can draw upon as the seasons change. It’s one reason that the new spring menu at La Terraza is so assured and confident. This is a restaurant that has already put in the years finding its way, and it comes through on the new spring menu.
You won’t want to miss the Salpicon de Mariscos, which is about as perfect a spring dish as I can imagine. The mixed greens are good enough, but it’s the generous portion of fresh, lightly cooked seafood that steals the show. Calamari, octopus, mussels, shrimp and bay scallops get a kiss of vinaigrette that brings a joyful burst of acidity. It’s like a ceviche without having to worry about offending someone over consuming raw seafood. It is a fantastic salad, one that I can see myself enjoying on La Terraza’s wonderful patio in the coming months.
I mentioned La Terraza’s European influences earlier, and they come full into focus in the Linguine Fruto de Mari. This dish is classical Italian in its construction, with a gorgeous squid ink pasta that is as delicious as it is attractive. This might be the first pasta I’ve ever had where the noodles obviously benefited from the squid ink. A host of seafood lies in hiding, including clams, mussels and scallops, with some calamari on top. You can taste some distinctly new world acidity in the tomato sauce, but this is a dish you will instantly recognize and (I predict) enjoy.
If there is one dish on La Terraza’s new menu that toes the line between eastern and western hemispheres, it’s the Stroganoff de Pollo. On the surface, there are some resemblances to the classic Russian plate, but this dish is more about variation than sticking to the original theme. The chicken is nicely cooked, topped with mushrooms and garnished with new potatoes. And then it gets a little crazy with a pickle and mustard cream sauce that puts the plate’s flavor profile squarely in the Caribbean. It’s closer to the taste of a Cuban sandwich than a beef stroganoff, and that’s not a bad thing. This dish is simply fun, something that shows off just how smart La Terraza already is.
There is a host of other new items on the spring menu. I didn’t get a chance to try dessert, but there are two new ones. La Terraza is serving up a Dulce de Leche Creppe as a Crema Catalana, which is a Spanish cream pudding that is brûléed on top. Of course, you can still find La Terraza’s classic paella and arepas on the menu, as well as daily specials. La Terraza is also working on an updated cocktail menu to match the seasonal change (though it will be hard to beat their spiced mojitos). The new spring menu debuts today. If you stop by tonight, you can enjoy happy hour mojitos all night long. Either way, it’s really hard to go wrong with a visit to Hillcrest’s newest standout restaurant.