LITTLE ROCK In case you missed our scoop last week in the Business section, Donnie Ferneau Jr. is out as executive chef at Rocket Twenty One, the restaurant formerly and eponymously named Ferneau, 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd. in Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood. Ferneau says he has left by mutual agreement: “It’s official, I’m a free agent ... Frank Fletcher and I decided to part ... ways with no hard feelings on either side,” he posted on his Facebook page last week. “He was a great Mentor. Have been working on a venture, looking for investors. Stay tuned.”
Ferneau will continue to show up on the local restaurant landscape. For example, he’s preparing the fish course for the 2013 Chef Ball, hosted by the Central Arkansas chapter of the American Culinary Federation (theme: “Dine With Passion”), Feb. 17 (hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m., dinner at 7) in the Campus Center Grand Hall, Pulaski Technical College, 3000W. Scenic Drive, North Little Rock. The ball honors the top chef, sous-chef and student of the year. The other five dinner courses and their preparers: hors d’oeuvres, Dan Capello, Chenal Country Club; appetizer, Matthew Cooper, Lulav; soupand salad, Shane Henderson, Ben E. Keith Foods; entree, Brian Kearns, Country Club of Little Rock; and dessert, Jan Lewandowski, Pulaski Tech Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management Institute. Tickets are $125. Call Renee Jeffery at Pulaski Tech, (501) 812-2879, or e-mail email@example.com.
And speaking of Lulav, 220 W. Sixth St., Little Rock, as of Wednesday, it becomes The Italian Kitchen at Lulav. The menu will focus on northern and coastal Italian cooking; the dishes will be “simple, focusing on fresh and handmade.” First courses include charcuterie and cheese plates, Shrimp Scampi, Stuffed Portobello and Mussels Arrabbiata; $10 pizzas will include usual suspects including pepperoni (a spicy smoked variety), “Carni” (meat lovers’) and Margherita (fresh Roma tomatoes and basil), but also unusual suspects (including asparagus, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and the “Chef ’s Fav,”pistachio, gorgonzola, arugula and marinara). A selection of meat, fish and chicken entrees includes some fancier chef specialties, plus a selection of handmade pastas. Owner Matt Lile promises that, in addition to price-grouped by-the-glassand by-the-bottle wines, he’ll have an Italian Kitchen Wine Table from which customers can pick out the bottle they like best, based on their criteria.
Lile says the restaurant is in the final stages of an extensive renovation, including new lounge tables with French-oak wine-barrel pedestals and butcher-block tops. The upstairs event space will continue to be called Lulav Loft, in part to maintain the Lulav name: “I hated to let it go after nine years,” Lile says, “but I also wanted to have a fresh new name to go with the new concept.” Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays for lunch, 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, though, of course, the bar stays open “until.” The telephone number remains (501) 374-5100.
And speaking of chef ’s specialties, Lile confirms that chef Matthew Cooper will be sticking around for the Italian Kitchen launch, but he is in the process of what Lile calls “transitioning to a different position.” He wouldn’t get any more specific, although he says the parting is amicable - Cooper, he says, will maintain a consulting role and a once-a-month guest chef gig. Cooper did not return messages by deadline.
Home Fresh Burgers is now open in the off-again, on-again former Hop Drive-In, 7706 Cantrell Road, Little Rock. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. And yes, it is the same operation that originally intended to open on Main Street downtown, and yes, they are still hoping to open someday downtown if they can find a suitable location. The phone number is (501) 219-8140.
Ann Cleator, real estate development manager for Austin, Texas-based Chuy’s Restaurants, confirms that Arkansas’ first Chuy’s Fine Tex Mex (it’s pronounced CHEW-ies) is building in the Chenal Marketplace, 16001 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock (neighbors include Kroger Marketplace and Marshalls.) The building permit is for a $1.3 million, approximately 7,600-square-foot building, which Cleator says will also have an 800-square-foot patio with a projected opening, “assuming the weather holds,” inmid-May. The website, chuys. com, promises “unique, authentic Mexican food ... using only the freshest of ingredients,” with recipes that originated in Mexico, Texas and New Mexico.
And speaking of Mexican restaurants, you will recall the “opening soon” banner forMamacita’s Bar & Grill on the front of the building at 5923 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, most recently the Heights Cafe and originally Satellite Cafe. There’s still no listed telephone number, so we’re marking time until we can give you more details. In the meanwhile, a sharpeyed correspondent alerted us to a similar sign for a Mamacita’s at the former Los Amigos, 2850 Prince St., Conway. Connected in any way to the Mamacita’s in Little Rock? Or just a coincidence? (Apparently it will have a private club license so, when it opens, it can serve margaritas in dry Faulkner County.) It, too, still lacks a listed telephone number.
That same sharp-eyed correspondent let us know about the approach, “nearly next door” on Prince Street in the former Blockbuster video store, of Kobe Japanese Steak House. We were unable to confirm by deadline whether it’s affiliated with the restaurant of the same name at 11401 Financial Centre Parkway, Little Rock. And, our correspondent adds, in the former Hardees at 105 E. Oak St. there will soon be a Dunkin Donuts and a Baskin-Robbins.
When the 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville, 200 N.E. A St., Bentonville, opens Feb. 11, so will The Hive, with MatthewMcClure, former sous-chef under Lee Richardson at Little Rock’s Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel, as executive chef. Mc-Clure says his new menu will focus on what he calls the “cuisine of the High South,” and use locally grown ingredients. At least one item will sound familiar to Ashley’s fans: the house-made pimento cheese, here served with bacon jam and white toast. Also on the menu: pan-fried, buttermilkmarinated chicken livers; rabbit and dumplings; a ham-brined pork chop atop sweet potato puree, braised greens and pecan relish. Initial dinner-only hours will be 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; breakfast, lunch and brunch service will follow. You can make reservations for Feb. 12 and beyond at (479) 286-6575 or via thehivebentonville.com.
Has a restaurant opened - or closed - near you in the last week or so? Does your favorite eatery have a new menu? Is there a new chef in charge? Drop us a line. Call (501) 399-3667 or (501) 378-3513, or send a note to Restaurants,Weekend Section,Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 121 E. Capitol Ave., Little Rock,Ark. 72201. Send e-mail to:
Weekend, Pages 40 on 01/31/2013
Print Headline: TRANSITIONS