by Max Brantley
Our gang tonight tried Velo Rouge, the new bistro in Nu's old quarters at Markham and Cumberland. Good meal. Opening week service a little rocky. But it had a convivial, urban feel to it, what with a good crowd and the Christmas-light bedecked street cars passing the front window regularly (sometimes even with people aboard), along with plenty of sidewalk traffic.
The crowd included veteran restaurateur Ed Moore, celebrating his and partner Paul Bash's just-completed sale of their Purple Cow restaurant group. Paul will be traveling; Ed enjoying Little Rock, he said, as we reminisced about how they perfected the Cow's burger formula (an initial stab at a healthy burger gave way to the more classic greasy variety). Ed's grandson was in the Velo Rouge kitchen, following the family tradition.
Also passing through: members of the Russellville School Board, conventioning; banker Virgil Miller, checking out the menu (somebody please give him a trophy for steering the Central High 50th through mostly calm surface waters, never mind the backstage drama); former Razorback Mike and Marty Schaufele (what else to talk about but the Hog opera -- resolved: a new coach needs to be in place soon to protect the recruit class); several folks heading to UALR's history lecture series at the Historic Arkansas Museum; lawyer David Lewis, whose son Robbie is executive chef of this and a coming even-more-upscale companion restaurant; Loca Luna/Bene Vita's Mark Abernathy, on a busman's holiday at the bar. Mark and I tried, but I think failed, to remember all the restaurants and ownerships that have been ensconced on that corner over the years. Remember Off the Delta? Sadly, I do.
Food? Excellent steak frites, the sine qua non of bistro cooking. Tarte tatin and chocolate pots du creme couldn't have been better.