Sometimes it’s fun to try a new restaurant without knowing anything at all about it: no reviews, no word of mouth, just a pure shot in the dark with a place that sounds like it might be worthwhile. You can get burned pretty bad this way, of course, but there’s that nice feeling of serendipity that comes with picking a winner. Jess and I were lucky enough to be on the winning side of this restaurant roulette game with Red Door Restaurant in Little Rock, an attractive restaurant on Old Cantrell Road in Little Rock that describes itself as “Modern Southern” cuisine. The menu is eclectic but not so huge that quality suffers, and we had a delicious meal.
We started our meal off with the Toasted Bruschetta, an odd an interesting dish of toasted French bread topped with asparagus, red bell pepper, onions, olives, and cheese that was somehow more than the sum of its parts. When I first saw the dish, I thought that maybe everything on the plate would just be a mushy mess, but there was a nice balance of texture and flavor that came through in every bite, from the tart olives to the mild, sweet onions to the nutty flavor of the Parmesan cheese on top. The bread was a good, substantial bread, and those of you who read this blog regularly know that we’re not fans of bread (or crust) that can’t hold up under the weight of some toppings. This was one of the more interesting and different takes on bruschetta that I’ve ever eaten, but it worked well and was a nice start to the meal.
For her entrée, Jess chose the lasagna, a large dish of noodles layered with a savory mixture of crumbled meatballs, Italian sausage, and ground steak, topped with fresh portabella mushrooms and covered with rich cheese and a wonderful pomadora red sauce. I’ve been to purely Italian restaurants that didn’t have lasagna nearly as good as this was. The noodles were cooked perfectly, and the meat mixture was spiced well but didn’t overwhelm the dish. The sauce was assertive and bold and really pulled together all the other flavors of the dish. Red Door also has a pasta and meatballs dish with the sauce, and that’s definitely on my list of things I want to try here.
For my entree, I got the Osso Bucco – mostly because it was a bit of a shock to actually see it on a menu here in Arkansas. I’m not sure how Italian classics like lasagna and osso bucco qualify as “modern Southern,” but this braised pork shank with haricots verts and asparagus was one of the best dishes I’ve eaten – ever. The outside was glazed perfectly and the fork-tender meat was juicy and flavorful all the way to the bone. You don’t see pork done well on many menus, and most people tend to think of it as a meat good for barbecue alone. This dish puts that idea to shame. The haricots verts and asparagus were cooked well (and were both delicious), but the pork was the shining star of the plate. Honestly, if this dish were all that Red Door served, I’d eat there regularly – it’s that good.
Red Door Restaurant is located at 3701 Old Cantrell Road in Little Rock. They serve a lunch menu Monday-Friday 11:00am-2:00pm and dinner until 9:30 seven days a week. We found the service to be passable, if a tad indifferent – but the food was excellent. Enjoy!