Friday, April 30, 2010

Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant

4716 Camp Robinson Road, North Little Rock, Arkansas

Smells like a swimming pool. That was my first impression as the hostess seated us. My guess was that they had been using bleach to clean with. At least the chances of catching ebola or worse have diminished...

First look at the menu revealed, "speedy gonzalez," a sure tip off that everything you get there is food service and not real cooking. This proved to be correct as the meal came out with the ubiquitous soupy beans and canned red enchilada sauce that bubbles on hot platters in every faux "authentic" restaurant in town. If this is authentic Mexican food, I pity the poor people of Mexico for having to eat it. Even the salsa tasted like it was poured from a jug.

So, if you like Casa Mexicana, Las Palmas or any other of the myriad cookie cutter restaurants, this may be right up your alley. Priced and menu'ed the same as all the others. If you want something that tastes more like Mexican food, keep moving...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Chang Thai & Asian Cuisine

9830 Hwy 107, Sherwood, AR 72120

The foods of southeast Asia are amazing blends of flavors and tend towards the top of my lists perennially. But in Arkansas you don't find a lot of places to get it. The one Thai restaurant in Jacksonville has a buffet so tamed down for the American palate that it is hard to tell from a regular "Chinese" buffet that seem to be on every corner. And I was a little disappointed in the dishes I get ala carte. Of course there's the great little secret about AP's up there too, the Thai food is a side line and not always available. It's probably the best I've found, but sometimes is spicy to the point of painful.

So, I did a double take when we were driving down 107 last Saturday and I caught a glimpse of "Thai and Asian..." on a small storefront in a tiny strip mall. I promised myself that I would go back at my first opportunity. When I walked in the door, I was immediately confronted with a buffet. My heart sank a little, I admit. But the place looked extremely clean, bright and the staff was immediately friendly. I placed a drink order and grabbed a plate.

I'm glad to say, this isn't just another one of those all you can eat places. Don't get me wrong, you can eat as much as you want. But the dishes are familiar Thai dishes and are very well prepared and fresh. I didn't see my old standby, green curry, but it's available on the menu. There was Pad Kapraow, though, which you don't run across too often. It had been toned down to a medium heat so as not to offend the Sherwood sensibilities, but had that wonderful, recognizable flavor. There were shrimp in chili paste (delicious) and Pad Thai noodles and the ubiquitous fried spring rolls and chicken wings. But all in all, a delightful buffet.

I definitely want to delve into the menu a bit, too. Meing Kham sounded really good and I don't want to wait too long to try the Pla Sam Rod (three flavored fish!). And of course the soups will get special attention over time. I didn't see a noodle soup on the menu, but they're bound to have it. I guess I need to ask...

Thumbs up on this one. It's going onto the regular rotation.