Artistic food can be very hit or miss. Sometimes in the delivery more attention is paid to the appearance and presentation of food than in the taste and texture of same. Fears of such a discovery kept me away from Starving Artist Café for a long time. I am pleased to report that my fears were ungrounded.
Stopped in for lunch the other day with my traveling companion. We decided to sample a little bit of everything -- since the prices seemed more than fair. Started out with a Cheddar Mushroom soup -- the soup of the day -- and were greeted with a thick and rich mushroom-powered soup with the consistency of pudding. That was actually a good thing; it had a real stick-to-your-ribs feel to it, perfect for the rainy afternoon.
Salads were different… my companion’s half of a Starving Salad ($3.50 half, $5.50 whole) was flavorful and well considered both as a widely varied combination of tasty ingredients and as art itself. My Belgian Endive salad ($4.50 half, $7.00 whole) on the other hand was bitter with bits of bite… maybe better for a full-blooded endive lover. Could have just been my taste buds.
The entrees… on the jump.
I was in a cheese mood and went for the Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Panini ($6.75 with roasted potatoes) -- and was not disappointed. Quarter inch thick slices of mozzarella was perfectly melted into the tomato for a pillow of a sandwich, augmented by the appearance of an attached pickle spear.
But I must admit jealousy at my companion’s choice, which was the day’s special, the Ahi Tuna with Corn Aioli. The perfectly cooked tuna was delicate and dark pink within, seared like a steak without, topped with the corn relish and chunks of lump crabmeat, served up with roasted potatoes and green beans. The only thing I can’t praise about the dish was that the green beans were charred on one side.
My companion may have lucked out on the special, but we both lucked out on sharing a dessert, the Berries Charlotte. The delicate custard within the encapsulization of ladyfingers held in even more delicate suspended fresh blueberries under a roof of berry reduction and crème Anglais… somewhere between ethereal bread pudding and fancy fruit flan. There was a battle of the spoons over who would capture the last bit of the dish’s essence.
You’ll find Starving Artist Café in the Argenta District, between 4th and 5th Streets on Main. Some parking available on the street, and there’s a patio if it’s nice. Don’t worry -- there’s also plenty of indoor seating to escape the heat. (501) 372-7976... Or check out the website for daily specials.