LITTLE ROCK The food is fine at Terry’s Finer Foods - The Restaurant.
Was there any doubt? Shouldn’t have been, considering its pedigree.
Terry’s Finer Foods, of course, has been a successful high-end grocery store in Little Rock’s Pulaski Heights for what seems like forever.
The restaurant is only 3 weeks old, but it seems to be doing pretty well as well. It fills a niche - “slightly French bistro,” as Terry’s co-owner Lex Golden has described it, which has been vacant since west Little Rock’s Gypsy’s Grill went away.
Its Heights location, and the massive amount of affection for Lex and Ellen Golden, havebrought just about everybody who’s anybody in for dinner at least once.
It has been next to impossible to get a reservation (which can be also be made by e-mailing restaurant@terrysfinerfoods. com) on the weekends, and it’s a good idea to make one if you want to get a table. (Although, and we probably shouldn’t tell you this, tables begin to open up after 8 p.m. or so, so you might be able to squeak in a late supper before the place closes at 10.)
Chef Patrick Herron’s credits include his fine former Beechwood Grill on Kavanaugh in Hillcrest, and La Scala before that.
The Goldens are not entirely new at this, either. For about a year and a half, in 1994-95, they ran Chattie’s, up the street a bit at 5510 Kavanaugh. (Cafe Prego, which started out nearby at 1900 Grant St., took over the building after Chattie’s closed.)
The Goldens have torn down the former Sue’s Pie Shop to build the restaurant, with the entrance on the parking lot between the grocery and the neighboring Heights Fine Wine & Spirits.
Like Lex Golden’s description of the menu, it’s “slightly French bistro,” with seating for about 50. In the cozy main dining room, the tables (set up so they can serve two intimately or be shoved together to accommodate large parties) have yellow tablecloths, and there’s French-scene artwork on the walls.
There are a couple of overflow tables in the delicatessen area of the grocery store. And the staff was sufficiently clever on a recent evening to set up a long table for a large party in front of the grocery to free up inside seats for other customers.
A number of the entrees we sampled at Chattie’s in May 1994 have found their way onto Terry’s menu, including the Shrimp Provencale ($13.50 then, $15.95 now), a leg-andthigh Duck Confit ($12.50 then as an off-menu special, $17.95now), a Grilled Salmon Filet ($13.50, $17.95) and the Magret Duck Breast with Peppercorn Sauce ($16.25, $21.95).
The 16-year-old review’s description of the Shrimp Provencale - “medium-size, fresh-tasting shrimp stewed in tomatoes and garlic and other herbs and spices, ... served over rice” - is pretty close to what the dish is like now. The tomato-based sauce has a nice garlic-and-herb kick to it, but isn’t flame-fiery. The five shrimp come with the tails on, which is the current trendy way of serving shrimp, but it does put an extra strain on one’s napkin.
The menu offers five possible cost-extra sauces - bearnaise ($4), morel mushroom ($7), bordelaise ($3), peppercorn beurre blanc ($5) and provencale ($4) - but Effervescent Companion ordered her salmon plain. Out of the kitchen came a huge plank of fish (we’ve paid more for less fish), maybe just a little translucent in spots (which meant at least that it was still moist). It tasted good enough without accent.
Her second-visit special, a grilled South American lobster tail ($36), was pure heaven, singed to just the right consistency and flavor (didn’t need the little cauldron of melted butter at all).
The most intriguing/adventurous dish on the menu must be the Turkey Roquefort ($15.95), a very large, fairly tender turkey medallion topped with a sharp but enjoyable Roquefort burre blanc. It’s extremely rich, and we wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not a big fan of blue cheeses, but if you are, go for it. (We could see this as a veal dish, too. The menu offers veal rib and veal loin chops at $27.95 and $32, respectively. There’s also a 6-ounce center-cut filet, $21.95, and 10- and 14-ounce prime New York strip steaks, $21.95 and $25.95.)
Entrees come with a choice of side. The steamed asparagus ($5 a la carte) and sauteed spinach ($5 a la carte) are worthwhile (the spinach, sauteed with a healthy dose of garlic, came with a not-so-welcome additional dose of black pepper the second time).
Pomme Puree ($4 a la carte), of course, is a fancy way of saying “mashed potatoes” (the kitchen supposedly adds a little broth). And you can’t go wrong with the very light shoestring fries ($5 a la carte).
Terry’s doesn’t offer much in the way of appetizers, but we can certainly recommend the Onion Gratinee soup ($5.25), which, though mostly crouton (it soaked up a lot of the tasty, rich onion broth), is delicious. First server Andrew described Ouefs with Mayonnaise ($4.25), listed under the salads, as sortof like deviled eggs. We would have enjoyed it more if it actually was deviled eggs, but what we got wasn’t bad, just not all that exciting - four hardboiled egg halves topped with a light, tangy, house-made mayonnaise.
The excellent, well-textured L’Ami Louis Potato Cake ($12.95) is more than enough to serve two, so the nice folks at the table next to us shared it with us.
Save room for dessert. The slice of flourless Chocolate Gateau ($5.25) looked disappointingly small when it arrived on the plate, surrounded by an over-sweet raspberry coulis, but it was so rich we couldn’t finish it.
Strawberry shortcake ($5.50), made, as second server Samantha repeatedly told us, with fresh strawberries from the grocery, was a delight, two shortcake rectangles and a glorious chocolate-filled spiral cookie (that would have been fine for dessert all by itself) emerging from a blob of house-made whipped cream with plenty of fresh, thin sliced strawberries served in a stemless martini glass.
From the fancy (empty) wine bottles that Terry’s uses as (literal) window dressing, you’d expect that the cellars stock French first-growths, but you won’t find Chateau Margaux on Terry’s small but very well chosen wine list.
A moderately priced bottle of dry riesling from the American Northwest that we chose on Samantha’s recommendation turned out to be just the right accompaniment to the lobster and the turkey (and it stood up remarkably well to the Roquefort). We also sampled an excellent Oregon pinot gris (a good match for the salmon), a nice sweet Schloss Volrads riesling Spaetlase (went well with the shrimp) and a very nice Sauternes with dessert.
House wines come to the table in little clay carafes that are very similar, if not identical, to the ones the Goldens used at Chattie’s. You get a basket of baguette slices on the table, along with water poured from a brown glass bottle into stumpy little glasses, but we suspect the water doesn’t originate in those bottles - they’re just a delivery device.
Service was uniformly excellent on both visits; both our servers were extremely helpful and attentive. Oh, the second time we did get spinach instead of the green beans ($5 a la carte) we asked for.
Terry’s Finer Foods -
The Restaurant Address: 5018 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock Hours: 5:30-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday Cuisine: Slight French accent Credit cards: V, MC, AE, D Alcoholic beverages: Full bar Reservations: Yes Wheelchair accessible: Yes Carryout: Yes (501) 663-4154
Weekend, Pages 31 on 05/27/2010
Print Headline: Food, service fine at Terry’s