BRAVE NEW BURRATA: The cheese is a tasty accompaniment to heirloom tomatoes.

There are some restaurant experiences that, for us, mark the passage of time. As cooler weather creeps in and the mosquitos take a break, we like to venture from our air-conditioned caves out to the patios and porches of some of the old standbys to take in the early September scenery, look upon lovely downtown views, and enjoy a culinary experience worthy of the price. Brave New Restaurant has always been that place for us. It’s a place preceded by its reputation, but our trips lately make us feel as though we’re missing out on whatever it is that warrants its standing among the top restaurants in Little Rock.

On a recent Friday night, the patio at Brave New hosted some of Little Rock’s upper crust. Older men sat relaxed in their sport coats and loafers, nursing brown cocktails. Their wives sipped on chilled Chardonnay. Peter Brave, the restaurant’s owner and namesake, made frequent appearances to socialize and schmooze. He looked confident and comfortable, as if he was responsible not only for the food, but for the surprisingly great weather.


When asked by Brave how everything had been, a patron at a nearby table joked that the cucumber soup was exceptional, although monochromatic. Brave responded ably, complimenting his competent line cooks for their execution.

The seafood and ancho chile soup ($6.50) was unexceptional, bereft as it was of seafood. That’s not entirely true; we did manage to dredge up one piece of shrimp that was quite good, but lonely. There was however, quite a bit of chicken, shishito peppers and broth. It left us wondering if we should have opted for the less colorful cucumber variety.


The heirloom tomato salad ($14) was an absolute pleasure. Fresh and meaty Arkansas heirloom tomatoes were sliced and served with a sumptuous and creamy burrata cheese, corn and jalapeno relish, and beautiful micro greens. A bit of balsamic drizzle offered a tangy touch. This dish was at once light and rich, the perfect appetizer.

For dinner, we gave the Mushroom Wellington ($17) a chance. The dish is described as a “mushroom duxelle made from fresh mushrooms, onions, garlic and pecans, wrapped in puff pastry, baked and served on a bed of fresh tomato sauce.” We expected a petite pastry pouch, delicately presented. But the dish was unappetizingly big and a bit clumsy. It amounted to a mushroom turnover, consumed by puff pastry and sitting atop not a sauce, really, but more of a tomato ratatouille. The taste is there. The mushroom mix is flavorful and rich. The tomato sauce is chunky and fresh. But the massive square of pastry is too much.


We fared better with the scallops dinner special ($32). Four goodly sized scallops came in a rich saffron beurre blanc sauce. It was served with roasted potatoes, glazed carrots and grilled zucchini. The scallops were one of the highlights of the night: perfectly cooked, complemented nicely by the rich sauce, and overall satisfying. All that’s missing here was a little finesse in the presentation, which we really don’t believe is too much to ask at more than $30 a plate.

Brave New is nothing if not consistent. In general, you’ll get good food and a pretty place to sit. The scallops are always a sure thing. But recent trips to similarly priced culinary gems in Memphis and Dallas have got us thinking a bit more broadly about our food scene. Is Brave New worth the ticket price? And would it hold up in other markets — and increasingly, this one — where a $25 plate gets you inventive dishes with interesting flavors and tasteful presentation? It’s a question worth asking. In the meantime, we’ll remember our experience as one diner did the cucumber soup: tasty but otherwise lacking.

Brave New Restaurant
2300 Cottondale Lane, No. 105

Quick bite


We made no mistakes with special dishes. The heirloom tomatoes and the scallops dinner special were absolutely the highlights. Brave New has a variety of dinner salads. If our side house and Caesar salads are any indication, greens might be a good way to go.


11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Saturday.

Other info

Patio seating. Full bar. Credit cards accepted.