Donnie Ferneau repeated as the top overall chef in the Arkansas Hospitality Association’s second annual Culinary Classic held recently at the Statehouse Convention Center. Ferneau, who owns the restaurant by that name in Hillcrest, took the top prize in a competition of several of the state’s leading restaurant, catering and corporate chefs.
Among the individual winners in the Culinary Classic, Joseph Salgueiro, the chef at Capriccio Grill at the Peabody Little Rock Hotel, won one gold one and silver medal. Salgueiro’s two winning dishes were Panzo Marinated Ahi Tuna Salad with Kimche (gold medal) and Grilled Porterhouse with Snow Pea Shoots and Enoki Mushroom Salad in a Shiraz Vinaigrette (silver medal). Salgueiro joined the Peabody in early 2005; he previously worked under Jean Christophe Michele at the La Tour d’Argent in Paris and spent six years as sous chef at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York.
In a bar competition among several restaurant bartenders held at the AHA’s trade show, Chris Johnson of Ristorante Capeo took first place.
The Embassy Suites won the best banquet table presentation for its fall foliage display.
MT. FUJI Sushi may be the main attraction at Mt. Fuji, but a recent visit with three others who share our aversion to the uncooked proved there’s plenty else to explore on this restaurant’s menu. We started out with an appetizer of edamame — steamed soybeans still in the pod — and while they were a bit bland, the element of little-kid fun involved in de-podding the beans, plus the myriad health benefits of soy protein, made up for it. For entrees, we all stuck with the less expensive “Japanese favorites” section of the menu, where entrees are under $15. (If you’re willing to shell out another $5 or so, you can choose from teriyaki and sukiyaki dishes, sushi and sashimi, or a combo platter. You can also order off the shopping list of a la carte sushi and sashimi.) Our choice, yaniniku, was a delicious almost stew-like mixture of sauteed beef, onions and green peppers in a thick brown sauce, with steamed rice on the side, of course. We’re fairly certain it’s the first time we’ve eaten at an Asian restaurant and not taken home leftovers. Our three companions ordered variations of noodle soup, which came in huge bowls with sides of shrimp and vegetable tempura. 10301 Rodney Parham (Breckenridge Village) 227-6498. Japanese beer and wine. CC $$-$$$ LD daily.
WILLIAMS’ TAVERN RESTAURANT Located in a state park nine miles northwest of Hope, this restaurant was originally the home and business of John W. Williams in Marlbrook in 1832. The structure was relocated to the Old Washington Historic State Park in 1985. The building carries on the Williams’ family stagecoach stop, serving modern-day travelers (but no booze). On the menu are salads, various plate lunches, specials and desserts at reasonable prices. We tried a good-sized chicken-fried steak with gravy, fresh turnip greens; it came with pinto beans and yeast roll or cornbread (with jalapeno in both if desired). All were prepared with their own home-cooked flavor, and at the country price of $4.99, were a bargain. Portions were just the right size to leave room for some hot homemade apple cobbler with ice cream. There are menu items for the kids, too. The lunch gave us energy to explore the large state park and its many historic sites. The restaurant is available for private dinners, receptions and other special events. Old Washington Historic State Park, Hwy 4. $. CC. 870-983-2890. L daily.