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What's cooking/capsule reviews

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What's cooking Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Sum in West Little Rock will debut a “small plate” menu starting Saturday, May 14. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the restaurant will serve small plate samplers of dim sum, while selected entrees also will be available, with half portions being served. Small plates are priced per person, and each will include a variety of dim sum. Also, Arkansas organic brown rice is now available at the restaurant. Owner Kathy Webb says it adds depth to selected dishes. Bordinos, a popular Italian restaurant on Dickson Street in Fayetteville will be featuring expanded quarters by next month, taking over space next door to its current location. Nu Cuisine Lounge at 225 E. Markham St. recently scored big in Metropolitan Home magazine’s travel column, being ranked among six eating posts around the country for being trendy, placing it with similar restaurants in Seattle, London and Washington, D.C. Nu was noted for its “global fusion cuisine in a vibrant downtown setting.” The Firehouse Subs corporate office is having all its franchises phase out the purchase and use of specialty breads (e.g., wheat, rye) and will offer only subs , a local franchisee tells us. If you low-carbers and others are looking for turkey on wheat, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Capsule reviews BUFFALO GRILL It’s with great relief, as a neighbor, that we report the reopening of the original Buffalo Grill in Riverdale. It’s a bit cleaner, there’s some polish on the floor and maybe even some new paint. But, otherwise, after an absence of more than a year, the identical operation is back – dips, chips, nachos, burgers, fries, Tortilla Flats and all the rest – cooked exactly as before. It’s no surprise. Though the ownership is different thanks to a foreclosure and delinquent tax sale, management now is in the hands of what had been a split-off Buffalo Grill in West Little Rock. The big, old two-fisted cheeseburgburger with a thick, hand-formed burger at the center, hot off the grill, is still a quick trip to paradise, with a pickle slice on the side. The service was sure. Many of the diners were the same old faces we’d grown accustomed to seeing the last 20 years or so. There’s new parking out back and an expanded deck. (The lot across the street is for Faded Rose only, be warned.) 1611 Rebsamen Park Road. 296-9535 $ LD. CC Full bar. JOHNNY CARINO’S Here’s why people like giant chain restaurants. They’re big. They’re attractive. Carino’s is sort of a Southern Italian Friday’s, a rustic fake villa with Italian knickknacks scattered about. They’re good value. Some lunches are around $7 to $8. Even on the very first day of operation, a well-trained new staff handled a big crowd swiftly. What was missing? For two of us, good food. After a sparkling Italian soda, flavored with raspberry syrup, and a warm loaf of cottony bread for dipping in olive oil and roasted bits of diced garlic, the goodness dropped off precipitously. Chicken marsala was tasteless (wait, you could taste a LOT of marsala wine in the sauce on the overcooked noodles). Cheese-filled ravioli were so hot they had to have been nuked. They, too, went beyond subtle to tasteless and they were drowned in a soupy marsala sauce. If those were wild mushrooms in the sauce, they didn’t look much different from the button variety in the Green Giant can. We know you can do better than this at Carino’s, with a huge menu that includes pizza, panini, skillet dishes and made-for-crowds desserts. Be prepared to be asked incessantly if you’re enjoying yourself. And look out for the traffic on Highway 10. 11600 Pleasant Ridge Road. 225-3434 $-$$ CC LD Full bar.

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