It has been roughly four months since chef Gilbert Alaquinez took over the reigns at Forty Two, the consistently underrated restaurant tucked away in the Clinton Presidential center. Alaquinez, who was previously the sous chef, kept the menu business as usual, leaving many of us to wait in anticipation of his impact on the dishes.
The wait is over with the recently launched mid-winter menu update. Where previous menus focused heavily on southern and delta flavors, the new menu is a wide variety of styles and flavors that blend well and match Alaquinez’ style as a chef, and is a reflection of the nation’s culinary diversity as a whole.
Alaquinez grew up around hispanic and latin flavors, then became trained in classical French techniques. You see this mixing of passions in the hispanic flavors of the Black Bean Chilaquiles Hash that features a nacho like bed of corn tortillas topped with black beans, greens, and tomatillo salsa. It shines through in the Chimichurri Grilled Mahi that is served along with a “super food salad” featuring carrot frappé, kale, sprouts, cabbage, and radicchino.
The kitchen at Forty Two has always tried to venture outside their comfort zones, and you see this reflected in the menu with interpretations on dishes from various parts of the country. The Katz Deli inspired corned beef on marble rye is stacked high with house cured corned beef and deli mustard. The Arkadephia Cheese Steak is an Arkansas twist on a classic Philly using a cheese sauce created from locally made Kent Walker Artisan Cheese’s habanero cheddar. The Korean sweet and spicy chicken wings continue the fusion approach, bringing traditional Asian flavors with a very southern style chicken wing and mashed potatoes.
For those still looking to have a traditional Southern Delta meal at Forty Two, the Southern Fish fry featuring catfish, crawfish, and fries or a Candied Peppered Bacon B.L.T. are always great ways to go. Their Arkansas Traveler burger is also a nice holder that has been with Forty Two since the very beginning.
Finally never underestimate the pastry talents of chef Anne Wood. The combination of her and Alaquinez, who actually makes some of the best baked goods around, has been a great boost for the dessert menu which changes each day. On our visit churros with hot dipping chocolate and a huge slice of chocolate cake were on the menu.
Overall the menu is a welcome change for one of the best lunches in town. Dinner here is still a rare thing, despite a huge demand, but (if you can manage to get a ticket) the monthly Around the World dinners are a can’t miss culinary experience. The waiting list is reportedly three years long, so find a friend. We do hear they may look at adding a few special event dinners in the near future, so keep an ear out.