I haven’t eaten every single steak available in Little Rock, so I can’t come right out and call the Grilled Filet with Seared Foie Gras from One Eleven at the Capital the best steak in town — but let me tell you, if there’s a better steak than this out there, I don’t know if I could handle it. Please forgive that dimly-lit picture over there (classy joints aren’t much for photo-friendly lighting) and take my word for it, this steak is out of this world.
I say this as a man who normally avoids ordering steak in restaurants because there are so few that can cook a steak worth eating. I say this also as a man who doesn’t really care for the filet cut of beef, because while it is wonderful in tenderness, it often lacks any real punch in flavor. I honestly didn’t really order the dish for the steak; I really wanted to see how chef Joel Antunes’ kitchen would handle that quintessential French ingredient, foie gras. Yeah, that part of the dish was pretty spectacular, too.
So what was so good about it? The steak itself was, as expected, quite tender. I eat my steaks rare, and I was happy to see my meat was cooked just so. Even with a rare center, though, the outside of the beef had a tasty seared crust that added a ton of flavor to the dish — a nice hat trick that won admiration from me. The foie was just as expertly cooked: seared on the outside, slightly pink in the center, and for a dish that was only $36, I was quite impressed by the hefty portion of foie that rested beautifully atop my thick steak. Don’t tell the folks at the Capital this, but they could get away with charging more for this dish.
The scattering of gnocchi and vegetables resting in the jus were nice, but there’s just something decadent and beautiful about a bite of perfectly cooked steak on the fork with a perfectly seared piece of foie gras. Having tried several other dishes from the One Eleven menu, I can vouch for their superiority, but this one stands apart.
If there’s any down side to dining at One Eleven, it’s that the dining room is too small to accommodate the number of seats management wants in the place. My two top was up against the wall and part of the single worst seating design in the history of restaurants: bench seating along the wall with chairs on the other side. Numerous restaurants do this (including a great many I love) and I groan every time I’m thrust into one of these sardine can seating arrangements. At One Eleven, I was close enough to the people on either side of me to hear every word of their conversation, from the elderly couple upset that Ashley’s lobster bisque and quail hadn’t made it onto the new menu to the cost of the bottle of wine the gentleman on my left ordered to go with his risotto. Even in the depths of my delicious steak, the claustrophobia was there — and when one of the servers came to reset Mr. Wine-and-risotto’s table, I saw more than I ever care to in a fine dining situation when she leaned over the table to straighten the table cloth.
So that’s the good and the not so good about the new restaurant at the Capital. The food is amazing, this steak being just one of several great dishes we ate. The service is fantastic — we never lacked for a single thing. Indeed, the only nitpick we have is the closeness of the table, and while that might seem picky, we figure that for a dining bill that approached the two century mark, we’ve got a right to a little space. Still, there’s no denying the facts: One Eleven is the real deal.