When simple and elegant go seamlessly together, you know you have a restaurant experience worth talking about. That’s what we experienced at Ashley’s, in the Capital Hotel in Little Rock.
Our first impression was that it was beautifully decorated—very simple, yet elegant, with fresh flowers the main splash of color. A huge fresh bouquet was at the entrance, and then each table had a small nosegay of roses.
Our second impression was that the service was excellent. The young man who was our waiter was very informative about each dish for which we had questions.
And, our third impression was that each dish had absolutely amazing flavors. Ashley’s is all about “southern tradition meets genuine Midwestern values” in what they call “New Americana.” That means a farm-to-table approach with dishes such as Brown Butter Gulf Shrimp with Arkansas Rice Grits, or Slow Cooked Egg with Asparagus, Truffle and Sweetbread Mixed Greens with Pickled Beets, Goat’s Cheese, Pecans and Sorghum Vinaigrette. It means Entrees with enticing—and unusual—descriptions, including Wild Striped Bass with Peanuts, Country Ham and Cabbage, and
Roasted Falling Sky Chicken with Winter Vegetable Pot au Feu, or even the Berkshire Pork Tenderloin with Sunchoke, Brussels Sprouts and Warm Spice.
It’s not quite Southern biscuits and cornbread, but it is certainly delicious, memorable, and still reminiscent of the flavors of a Southern home. Kudos to Executive Chef Lee Richardson, who apparently gives his Sous Chefs a voice. The young lady who was the chef that night, and, from what the waiter told us, is a major contributor to the creative voice of the menu, Cassidee Dabney, is quite the talent with food.
There is also a Chef’s Tasting Menu, with wine pairings to go with each item. For example, the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Braised Endive and Grapefruit is paired with Sauvignon Blanc from the Honig Vineyard & Winery, 2008, Napa Valley. The Tasting Menu includes a great dessert called, â€˜The Egg,” which is a Milk Chocolate Pot de CreÃŒâ‚¬me with Caramel Foam and Sea Salt, offering a phenomenal combination of flavors.
For dessert beyond the Tasting Menu, your choices are just as elegant. There is a Chocolate Torte with Caramel Jam, Chocolate Cremeaux, and Spiced Caramel Ice Cream. Or, Southern Pecan Pie with Brown Butter Ice Cream. How about the Fluff-a-Nutter: a Banana Sponge with Chocolate Cremeux, Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Ice Cream, or the Lemon Meringue Pie with Salted Carmel Ice Cream?
It’s not an exaggeration to say that all of us went crazy over our selections. Now it’s a goal to stay at the hotel so we can try breakfast, lunch and dinner there!
Final impression: It’s worth the trip to Little Rock just to eat at Ashley’s.