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Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 6:24 a.m.
Top Picks - Capture Arkansas

TRANSITIONS

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published May 1, 2014 at 2:19 a.m.

the-center-divider-will-disappear-and-artwork-will-replace-the-elaborate-mirrors-as-ashleys-at-the-capital-undergoes-a-major-renovation-the-restaurant-closes-after-sundays-brunch-until-at-least-midsummer

The center divider will disappear and artwork will replace the elaborate mirrors as Ashley’s at the Capital undergoes a major renovation. The restaurant closes after Sunday’s brunch until at least midsummer.

Ashley’s at the Capital, the premier restaurant in the Capital Hotel, West Markham and Louisiana streets, will close after this Sunday’s brunch to undergo what hotel management describes as “important changes,” including a complete physical makeover designed to make the place feel more “convivial” but still classy, says Chuck Magill, the hotel’s marketing director.

Executive chef Joel Antunes has been promising changes since he arrived at the hotel in the fall of 2012, originally expecting that he’d have a plan in place within three to six months, but the timeline has dragged.

In the soon to be less formal line, the drapes, sconces and the center divider will go away, artwork will replace the mirrors, hardwood floors will replace the carpet. Diners will enter through a new bar area that will start in the hotel foyer.

Meanwhile, they’ll be rebuilding the kitchen toward increasing its capacity for restaurant seating - Magill says the figures in mind are 60 a day for lunch, 100 at night - and private dining, which, he says, “has become a big part of our business.” Among the new aspects: a full butchery, with separate preparation areas for meat, seafood and fish. You’ll see a lot more of Antunes’ signature pastries about the place as well.

And when the restaurant reopens - target date is mid-July - it’ll very likely have a new name, not yet chosen. We’ll keep you posted.

Margie Michell announced in an email blast to customers that Wednesday was to be her last day as owner-chef of Victorian Garden Bistro, 4801 North Hills Blvd., North Little Rock, after 21 years. What happens to the restaurant now? “There will be an update soon about the transition of ownership of the North Little Rock location,” Michell says. The restaurant phone number: (501) 690-3902.

After another month of delays (“the best laid plans of mice, men and restaurateurs gang aft agley,” as Robert Burns might have said if he were a food writer), new Mexican restaurant Cilantros Grill finally opened Monday in Lakewood Village, 2629 Lakewood Village Place, North Little Rock. Hours will be 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.The phone number is (501) 812-0040.

Loca Luna and Red Door owner-chef Mark Abernathy is once again in Lexington, Ky., today representing Oaklawn Park and his restaurants in the “Taste of Derby” culinary event. Out of the more than $100,000 the event raises for national hunger relief, “last year I brought back a check for over $3,000 for our local Arkansas Foodbank,” Abernathy says. He expects to serve up more than 1,500 tasting servings of Red Door croissant bread pudding with a “white lightnin’” whiskey sauce and toasted pecan and bacon brittle.

Meanwhile, Abernathy says, he’s put a few new items on the Loca Luna menu, including bison meatloaf with mushroom-cranberry demi glaze over butter-mashed Yukon Golds; ruby-red rainbow trout topped with crumbled lobster-crab cake and a citrus beurre blanc; a grilled portobello mushroom and white cheddar sandwich with lemon-herb aioli; and a bacon and brown-sugar-glazed pineapple brick-oven pizza.

And new summer menu items at Red Door include fried green tomatoes with crumbled deviled crab and house made remoulade; cheese grit souffle over candied pork belly topped with wild mushroom ragout; a baby iceberg wedge with crispy fried chicken livers; iron-skillet spicy paella; cream of asparagus soup with lemon creme fraiche; and homemade gnocchi with salmon and parmesan dill cream.

Arkansas bloggers are joining their “colleagues” across the country Saturday for the national Blogger Bake Sale, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Sixth and Main streets, North Little Rock, adjacent to the Argenta Certified Arkansas Farmers Market. The sale will feature baked goods by local bloggers and Twitter personalities and from central Arkansas professional bakers including Sweet Love, Dempsey Bakery and kBird. Visit nokidhungry.org/goto/ARBakeSale to donate.

The 41st annual Territorial Fair, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 10 at the Historic Arkansas Museum, 200 E. Third St., Little Rock, will include the 1-4 p.m. Pimento Cheese-off!, in which area eateries, competing on a friendly basis, will serve up their variants of the popular spread for guests to sample and subsequently vote for People’s Choice honors. Confirmed competitors as of this writing include Capital Bar & Grill, Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro and Hillcrest Artisan Meats. Admission, activities and parking are free; Lindsey’s Bar-B-Q will sell sandwiches and fried pies. Call (501) 324-9351 or visit HistoricArkansas.org.

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, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203. Send email to: eharrison@arkansasonline.com

Weekend, Pages 38 on 05/01/2014

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