- STILL GOT IT: Sonny Williams' packs in the crowds in the River Market district.
Our Valentine's Day dinner at Sonny Williams' Steak Room was as close to perfect as a meal can get.
Perfect food: Every single thing we had was the epitome of what it could be. Perfect service: We wish we could tout our waiter by name; he deserves the accolades. He was pleasant with an understated but acerbic wit — present when we needed him but not lurking; special requests were handled with no issues. Perfect pacing: We were there early, as we had chosen the first of our two reservation options when we called — 5 and 9 p.m. — but we weren't rushed, nor pressured to turn over our table. Each course came when it should, and our dinner stretched over a relaxed two hours. Perfect atmosphere: The quiet calm of Sonny's made us realize how many other spots are loud, the cacophony seemingly by design with hard surfaces and large rooms vs. the cozy layout at Sonny's, with several conjoined smaller spaces. Even on one of the busiest nights of the year, no one seemed harried — employees or patrons — and carrying on a quiet conversation wasn't challenging.
We started with the French onion soup ($8). When we asked for two spoons our waiter offered to split the soup into two bowls, a more laborious process with this classic than with a soup not topped with a large crouton and blanket of gooey Swiss. The rich, salty beef broth, plenty of sweet, cooked-down onions, slice-of-toast sized crouton and the Swiss combined into, yes, perfection.
A 6-ounce filet is $40; a 12-ouncer is $49. It's a no-brainer which to choose. We've never had a better steak. Weeks-aged Angus beef, well charred on the outside, exactly medium rare and fork tender — like buttah! How can it get any better?
That said, if we were restricted to one entree at Sonny Williams' it wouldn't be a steak, believe it or not. It would be the seafood platter ($55). The lineup: two massive, already split, tantalizingly sweet king crab legs with drawn butter; three large (prawn-sized) shrimp, perfectly fried in a light batter (grilled is an option); three plump, tender, perfectly seared grilled scallops; and one of the best crab cakes in town — not lump, but thin pieces, and lots of them, with minimal filler.
We remember the day when side dishes weren't included with Sonny's entrees. But today they are — two, in fact. (They are $7 a la carte if you want more.) We had au gratin potatoes — cheesy, just the right amount of greasy, and a bit gooey; wild rice with walnuts — light, fluffy and flavorful; creamed spinach — rich and fabulous; and sauteed mushrooms — salty and earthy.
All desserts are homemade, and the two we had were superb. The peanut butter cheesecake was rich, dense and smooth, artfully drizzled with caramel. The chocolate creme brulee, again, was as good as it gets: lusciously smooth and rich with a crisp, not too thick, hardened sugar topping. A nice Valentine's Day touch was the accompanying raspberry syrup in a heart shape on a pool of vanilla cream.
Perfection is exceedingly rare. On Valentine's Day, with a packed house, Sonny Williams' Steak Room delivered it in every way a dining experience can be defined.
Sonny Williams' Steak Room
500 President Clinton Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201
Don't discount Sonny Williams' as a fine place to catch a drink and listen to some standards at the piano bar. Jim Dickerson was tickling the ivories when we were there, and it added a nice touch to the experience.
5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Full bar, credit cards accepted.