- Kat Robinson
- YES, IT'S PIE: A remarkably good individual buttermilk pie at Ashley's.
Most great Arkansas pies can be found at mom-and-pop restaurants, diners and the various hole-in-the-wall around the state. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find good pie at the state’s finest dining locations.
Such is the amazing buttermilk pie at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel. This is where high couture meets down-home goodness.
I had the privilege of dining at Ashley’s this week, enjoying some of the remarkably delicious interpretations from the kitchen. It was lunch, and the starter was the Heirloom Tomato Salad, which in this instance consisted of what appeared to be vibrant Red Pear cherry tomatoes and pungently red slicers. They were paired with field greens and a long house crouton, drizzled with just the slightest touch of vinaigrette, and they were simple and perfect.
For once, I went with the catfish for entrée, the Brown Butter Catfish at that. The dish, served up with gently simmered lentils and some slightly sweet grilled endive, consisted of two catfish fillets beautifully browned in butter. Tender and somehow exotic, lacking the muddiness that usually turns me off of catfish. Surprisingly filling, too — though I suspect the lentils on that part.
But I am keeping you from the best part. I turned down Peach Cobbler, Pecan Pie and the amazing Pistachio Cherry Crème Brule for some Buttermilk Pie. Of course, it’s simple but it’s not. The pie is tiny, a mere three inch round sliced in half, but it has that beautiful creamy tart custard that any good buttermilk pie should have. It has the nicely caramelized top under a dusting of powdered sugar and a curl of spiced whipped cream.
It’s paired with an even tarter duo — a twinned smear of lemon custard and a dollop of lemon sorbet. The sorbet actually reaches a level of tartness only achieved through the proper application of absolutely fresh lemon juice, just sweet enough to be called a dessert and a delicious palate cleanser. The custard cries out for that bit of pie to go along with it, a Ying Yang of slightly tart to mostly tart, creamy to creamy yet still somehow opposite in flavor. A tiny dousing of simple syrup alongside makes the perfect addition for a little swirling.
Yes, it is lick-the-plate good. Which you would never do at Ashley’s. Right? (nervously chuckles) Because Ashley’s is the sort of place where the silver is polished every day. I know that for a fact.
Do this, though. If you go and you get the buttermilk pie, get yourself some of that fabulous coffee, too. One of the very few things (outside of hamburger buns and French bread loaves) not acquired locally, the coffee is to die for. Always served with fresh cream in the cutest little pitcher, too.
Go figure out a reason to do a business lunch at Ashley’s. The Express Lunch is just $13 and includes tea and tax, and you can either do a two-course lunch for $20 or a three-course lunch for $25. If you think about it, for the level of service you get and the remarkable vittles, it’s not a bad deal.
And yes, I just used the word “vittles” in an Ashley’s review. There ya go.
Ashley’s is located in the Capital Hotel across the way from the Capital Bar and Grill. There’s free valet parking for lunch, which is another bonus. (501) 374-7474 or check out the website.