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story.lead_photo.caption We built a Steamed Platter with mussels, corn and sausage at The Capital’s Seafood House. - Photo by Eric E. Harrison

Seafood places are scarce upon the local land- and seascape, at least in part because we're several hundred miles from salt water, and good seafood places are even scarcer.

So, in anticipation and based on what we heard from co-owner K.D. Williams, we were ready to scale the battlements as soon as The Capital's Seafood House opened its doors in early December catty-cornered from the state Capitol, especially because that opening was delayed for nearly three months.

Williams, a former Henderson State/NFL linebacker who had operated a similar establishment (K&D Crustaceans) with his wife, Erika Carter, in Tampa, Fla., promised a "real authentic Caribbean seafood taste."

Oh, how we would so like to rave about The Capital's Seafood House, and oh, how we wish everything we had there was worth raving about, and oh, how disappointing it is that several items we ordered came out not only short of our expectations but short of the mark.

The space -- a onetime gas station that has been a restaurant since the late '80s, housing Solar Cafe (1989-1993), Olde World/O.W. Pizza (1994-2013) and, most recently (June 2015-January 2016), Fresh! An Urban Eatery -- has its limitations, including that the restrooms are on the side of the building, making it necessary to go outside to, er, go.

Gallery: Capital's Seafood

Be prepared to dine in dimness. Five Edison bulbs in bottle holders attached each to a ceiling fan do little to illuminate the dining room, and the dark, dark red walls, dark tabletops and tinted windows don't help. And it's not just in the evenings, things were almost equally dim at noon on a cloudy weekday.

Seating is at booths along the front and one side wall, at tables in the middle of the room. When it's full, as it was or eventually got on lunch and dinner visits, it can get noisy, especially if one or more groups of folks are having a good time. A space that predecessor restaurants used as either overflow seating or a quasi-lounge area/reading room has been turned into a tiny bar. Five TVs in the dining room and one in the bar, turned to different sports channels at lunch and all to the same football game during dinner, make it almost impossible to find a seat that doesn't face one. Former porches at each end have been screen-enclosed and turned into patios, which could be nice when fair weather rolls back around.

Two dinner trips showed that three weeks after opening, there's still some degree of disorganization in evening service. On a recent Friday evening, the staff appeared to be slightly shell-shocked by the volume of business, and we had a nearly 45-minute wait for two sandwiches and an appetizer, the first version of which appears to have gone astray. There appeared to be some more or less constant expo confusion at the distribution window between the partially open kitchen and the dining room, leading to arguments between members of the wait staff and between wait staff and kitchen that was audible to customers.

Lunch was a complete change of condition, by the way -- food came out of the kitchen piping hot and in mere minutes. And there's a lagniappe at lunch -- fresh-made, house-made potato chips come complimentary.

The one thing we will almost certainly return for: the Seafood Burger Bites ($8), served, not, as the menu says, as "small hushpuppies" but a quartered version of the house specialty, the Seafood Burger ($17), a deep-fried patty-fication of shrimp, lobster and crab, sort of a cross between a crab cake and a croquette.

The Capital’s Seafood House

Address: 1706 W. Third St., Little Rock

Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday

Cuisine: Seafood with a slight Cajun accent

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: V, MC, AE, D

Reservations: No

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

(501) 214-1441 (ignore the initial, outdated voicemail message and wait for the phone to actually ring)

facebook.com/ thecapitalseafoodhouse

If you order the burger, it comes on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise with a side of fries. The appetizer comes in a red plastic basket with a side of "Pearl Jam" dipping sauce -- another house specialty, a creamy, zippy concoction that's somewhere on the condiment scale between mustard and remoulade.

We had much less success with two other appetizers. The Crab Nachos Grande ($12) was mountainous, with blue crab meat, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, jalapenos and sour cream atop tortilla chips, but once we'd consumed all the crab meat we lost interest in the remainder.

And the Shrimp Cocktail ($8) was an outright disaster. Our first clue that something just wasn't right: the eight medium-size shrimp, served hanging, tails outward, from a goblet full of cocktail sauce, still had their shells. And they weren't chilled -- they were somewhere between warm and tepid. And once we shelled them, they were mushy. It wasn't shrimp cocktail -- it was badly overcooked peel-and-eat. And we stopped even trying to eat 'em after one and a half shrimp.

We were sort of so-so on the clam chowder ($5 cup, $7 bowl), which was slightly gelatinous, with finely chopped clams but even more diced potatoes, the flavor mostly derived from black pepper.

We can recommend the Crawfish Po Boy ($9), a decent number of fried crawfish chunks with lettuce, pickle and tomato on what the menu says is "New Orleans-style French bread" (not as fluffy as it might have been, but not bad), served in a fake-newspaper-lined plastic basket with a small ceramic dish of piquant tartar sauce and a side of thick-cut, crusty fries.

The lobster in the Lobster Roll ($15) was a mayonnaise-y lobster salad on a slightly rectangular, slightly fluffy, slightly toasted bun with a side of sweet potato waffle fries. That the sandwich was cold was fine, but that the fries were cold wasn't.

On our second dinner visit, we built a combination Steamed Platter with mussels ($15), corn ($2) and sausage ($2), all of which came in swimming in a sea of slightly seasoned butter occupying perhaps half of a huge aluminum plate. The medium-size mussels (except for the three that had failed to open) were tasty and there were enough sausage slices, but we felt shortchanged at paying a buck apiece for the two extremely tiny corn cobbettes. The sea of butter sauce could have used a bit more garlic.

The shrimp in the Cajun-cream-sauce-coated Seafood Pasta ($15) wasn't mushy -- it was pleasantly firm, and so were the crawfish chunks -- but the penne sure was, almost inedibly so. The dish came with an unremarkable house salad and was supposed to come with hushpuppies -- perhaps the four pieces of toasted bread on the plate were a kitchen substitute.

The Capital's Seafood House has a full bar but we didn't see any kind of wine or beer list; Intrepid Companion ordered, blind, a glass of pinot grigio (white), which got put into the computer as pinot noir (red). Soft drinks are served in Mason jars.

The staff couldn't have been more friendly or helpful, which went some distance to mitigate some of the service problems.

Weekend on 01/03/2019

Print Headline: RESTAURANT REVIEW + PHOTOS: Seafood House near Arkansas Capitol potentially a-peeling

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