What’s cooking
Lulav is coming after all, chef and owner James Botwright tells us this week.
Scheduled to open in late January, a series of problems involving city permits had delayed the kosher California cuisine restaurant’s debut.
However, Botwright now says all is in order, he has worked out his problems over the size of the restaurant’s grease pit with the city and will open by the first of May at Sixth and Center streets.
“I was preoccupied for a little while, but we’re doing just fine now,” Botwright says. “We won’t have anything fried, but the city wanted us to have a grease trap of the size that you could park a car in. We also argued about the location of it. It was becoming a tit-for-tat thing, and I just acquiesced and said, ‘Fine, we’ll do it the way you want.’”
Ciao Baci and its chef, Greg Loyd, recently let us know about some of the restaurant’s new spring offerings:
On the tapas end, the Hillcrest restaurant traded out smoked salmon for a new house-cured salmon, served on gaufrettes (a fancy, waffle potato chip) with seared artichoke hearts and garlic chive creme fraiche. Spring on the outside deck is the right time for caprese salad featuring heirloom tomatoes and Ciao Baci’s house-made mozzarella with locally grown basil.
New entree offerings from the sea include sesame encrusted Hawaiian monchong (a white flesh fish, similar to swordfish in texture and comparable to lobster in flavor, Loyd says), served with a panang curry sauce. Also, giving big-eye ahi tuna a more Mexican flair than Asian, Loyd uses a smoky spice rub and tops it with guacamole and pico de gallo served over couscous.
Capsule reviews
PAUL’S RESTAURANT This is the classic neighborhood diner like all those other great small-town Arkansas diners that we’ve enjoyed through the years, and it’s just short drive up I-30 and JFK Blvd. from downtown Little Rock. The menu runs the gamut from the grilled hamburger (with grilled bun), catfish dinners, barbecue in all forms, plate lunches and all the sides you want or need. Malts, shakes, homemade desserts – what does Paul’s not have? The fried chicken is among our favorites, but the menu warns you it will take time to prepare. Each order is individually fried up and comes out untouchably hot. On a recent trip, our little one was not impressed with the grilled cheese made with a hamburger bun. The waitress noticed our picky eater and apologized for not warning us. She said her daughter doesn’t like them made that way either. She offered to make up another one differently, but little cheese puller wasn’t interested. The waitress apologized again, and then said she wouldn’t charge us for her meal. We realized that’s the small-town kind of service we miss living in the big city. And here’s a big mistake we made: As we drove by Paul’s for several months, we noticed the big banner touting “Open for Breakfast.” But no more. The waitress said it was hard to keep a cook that early in the morning. It just pains us to know we missed out. 3700 JFK Blvd., NLR, 771-9742. LD Mon.-Sat. $-$$ CC No alcohol.
SUFFICIENT GROUNDS The fascinating thing about Sunday brunch in this Hillcrest cafe is the number of laptop computer users now populating all the tables, thanks to wireless internet. They all have a handy cup of the store’s various brands of coffees handy. The latte works for us non-coffee lovers with its rich chocolate flavor. The specialty pizzas are quite the dish for lunch, too. We tried the Southwestern chicken pizza. If jalapenos are your thing, just let it come as is, but if you only want a little heat, speak up: We about had our doors blown off by the peppers crammed into this hefty, cheesy personal pie. The seasoned chicken, sour cream, diced tomatoes and garlic-oil based sauce completed a great package. A Fat Tire or a Diamond Bear Blond on tap goes nicely, especially to cool the fire. We’ve touted the wraps in this space before. You also can’t go wrong with the pastries, the cheesecake and other offerings. Feel free to bring along your computer. This is one cool place. 722 N. Palm St. (other locations downtown), 663-1636. $-$$ CC. Beer and wine.