I fell in love with Bavarian and Czech food as a teenager at Adolf Thum’s venerable Bohemia restaurant in Hot Springs. Since the closure of the Bohemia (although they have opened under new ownership), I hadn’t found anywhere that came close to capturing the quality and flavor of good, authentic Eastern European cuisine – until we tried The Pantry Restaurant in Little Rock. Jess and I had a very tasty and pleasurable meal there recently, and I was much impressed by the delicious food and excellent service – and it scratched an itch for flavors I’ve been missing for years.
Our idea was to beat the weekend crowds and eat at the Pantry on a Thursday night, but the restaurant was crowded and bustling with folks enjoying the warm Arkansas evening. We were met with a large smile by Tomas Bohm, the owner, who graciously welcomed us to his restaurant and took us to our table. We started with the house-made pate, served classic-style in a small jar with pickles and French bread toast (above left). I love pate, and found the Pantry’s offering to be very good; full of flavor and spice but with a wonderful earthiness that was accented perfectly by the sour pickles. Even Jess spoke highly of it, and she’s usually not one for anything involving liver. I could make a light lunch of just this appetizer alone.
For her entrée, Jess chose a classic dish, Baked Cod in Parchment Paper. The cod fillet was huge, and steamed perfectly with spinach, lemon and vegetables in white wine and olive oil. If you’ve never had fish done this way, try the Pantry’s version because it’s one of the best versions I’ve ever tasted. The fish was flaky and tender, and the sizeable fillet hid a treasure trove of mixed vegetables and spinach that soaked up all the good flavor of the wine and lemon. This isn’t a dish you’ll find a lot of places, but it’s something different and fun to try.
For my entrée, I chose the Roasted Pork Shoulder with Czech Potato Dumplings and Braised Red Cabbage. This dish was amazing, and it embodied all those good flavors I’ve loved for so long. The cabbage was just the right amount of tart, and the potato dumplings soaked up the juices from the cabbage and pork with their firm, mealy texture. The pork was cooked so well that I just closed my eyes and savored the first bite for half a minute. You see a serrated knife in the picture above, but let me tell you: I didn’t use that knife once – the pork was fork tender and bursting with flavor. We ended our meal with a slice of the Pantry’s homemade cheese cake, which was creamy and rich with a carmelized sugar topping. It was almost like having cheesecake and creme brulee all at once – very good.
We’ll definitely be back to the Pantry for more – they have some very tasty looking burgers and sandwiches on their menu, as well as a charcuterie board on the appetizer menu that I’m dying to try. The service was excellent – any restaurant where the owner himself will get you a refill when your server is busy with a six top is great in my book. The Pantry Restaurant is located at 11401 Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock. They’re open for lunch 11:00 am – 4:00 pm Monday-Friday and dinner from 4:00 pm – Midnight Monday-Saturday (the bar is open later). Give this one a try for something different, and Enjoy!