There was a time that I was jealous of the food scene in towns outside my home base of Hot Springs. Outside a few local favorites, the city was, for too long, simply a haven for national chains and fast food. There were very few privately owned restaurants and not much variety. That has now changed. Hot Springs has become a place where locally-owned places can thrive, and not only are the locals loving it—so are the foodies who travel to the Spa City. We can now enjoy great atmosphere, fresh ingredients, and amazing menus that not only fill the belly, but also satisfy the palate. One of the places that has helped launch this local renaissance in Hot Springs is Central Park Fusion.
Sitting at 200 Park Avenue in historic downtown Hot Springs, Central Park Fusion is a go to for those wanting a special dinner that can’t be had anywhere else in town.. Executive chef and owner Matt Fuller has an impressive menu that includes things like fresh Hawaiian Big Eye Tuna and Scottish Steelhead Salmon flown in twice a week. If that isn’t enough, Central Park Fusion is the only Arkansas restaurant carrying, exclusively, prime Australian Wagyu beef.
My first trip to Central Park Fusion came after an invitation by a friend. Walking in, my date and I were greeted with a hello from the servers, as well as the gentleman tending the bar. After ordering drinks and selecting an appetizer, I couldn’t help but notice how attentive the servers were, and also the fact that the tables are spaced far enough apart that guests can enjoy a quiet conversation without having to hear the neighboring tables. The décor is simple, warm and comfortable.
While enjoying the conversation, our appetizer, cocoa-dusted pork belly served on top of a salty-sweet waffle and tart cherries arrived. This dish touches every area of the palate in some very good ways. It is ridiculously tender, sweet, tart, savory, and pairs well with the crunchy waffle. As we sat and talked about the wonderful appetizer, I couldn’t help but wonder what else our meal had in store.
Having heard from friends about the long-standing menu favorite double cut pork chop, I decided to order that for my entree, and when it came to the table, I saw for myself why it’s a favorite with such longevity. At 31.5 ounces, this thing was enormous, and yes, it was almost fork tender. Hard to believe a chop could be that big and still be tender? Well, this chop is smoked, cooked sous vide, and then grilled upon ordering. That process has been perfected, and the end results prove it.
As I mentioned earlier, Central Park Fusion carries Australian Waygu beef, and are the only Arkansas restaurant to do so. They grind it for their awesome burgers, and have different cuts of steaks, including a New York strip that I felt must be mine. This steak is a thing of beauty. Guests at neighboring tables came over to ask permission to take pictures of the culinary masterpiece. Perfectly seared and rested, simply seasoned (as a quality cut should be), and served with tender asparagus and creamy mashed potatoes, this steak was without a doubt the best I have ever had. The flavor of the beef is only matched by the incredible tenderness. It took all I had to finish it the enormous strip, and I have to admit to being a little sad when it was over. Food this good is more than a meal, it is an experience.
Not only does Matt Fuller have a great staff of chefs who are producing arguably the best lineup of food in state, he is also very involved in charities. Recently Central Park Fusion catered the Circle of Friends’ Splash of Red event in Hot Springs to help raise money for Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Chef Fuller has also teamed up with Anthony Valinoti of Deluca’s Pizzeria Napolitano to make Black Truffle Pizzas that were auctioned off for charity.
Central Park Fusion has taken Hot Springs dining to the next level, giving guests a chance to have an experience like no other. With the extensive wine list, premium whiskey menu, awesome sea food and great service—not to mention that impeccable Waygu beef—you can’t go wrong with Central Park Fusion.