Friday, November 5, 2010

Capi's changes its menu.

INCOMPARABLE:  Capis frothy and sharp Queso
A reader alerted me to the menu change that struck last night at Capi’s. I was surprised about the change, to a point. I loved the idea of a small plates restaurant here in town. But…
Before we went out there last night, I dropped an email to Brent Peterson and asked about the change. Like many Central Arkansas restaurants, receipts were down in August and September. He had a brainstorm about using dishes Capi was known for over at Trio’s, and discovered she’d had similar thoughts. The new idea was explored, a menu was born and here it is.
Brent explains the new menu this way:
“Capi and I have both traveled extensively in Mexico, New Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. The cuisines of these locales rank at the top of our list of favorites. We like bold flavors, and Capi is masterful in developing these recipes to let each of the ingredients ‘speak for themselves’without allowing the subtle flavors to be overpowered by heat from too many chiles. You will see a broad selection of enchiladas, tacos, tamales steamed in banana leaves and fajitas; plus, pozole, tumbada (paella), two types of queso, two salsas, a garlic shrimp and Cuban picadillo from the original Capi's menu and some healthy, substantial salads. Capi and I both speak Spanish, and for some time she has frequented the local Mexican markets to find fresh ingredients for our Trio's specials. Now many more ingredients will be provided by these local merchants.”
My curiosity piqued, the hubster and girlchild and I headed that way last night.
The décor is relatively unchanged. The wait staff is the same, the aura is the same… only the menu has changed. Instead of a dozen small plates the menu now features a selection of enchiladas, tamales, tacos and fajitas. We went ahead and ordered the Queso Fundido Poblano ($7) right off the bat; Hunter was hungry and she loves dip, no matter what sort of dip it is.
Out comes this queso that frankly is like nothing I have ever tried. The white cream was almost frothy, light and airy with notes of Oaxaca and sharp Cheddar, almost a Feta flavor in the background. A heavier poblano-honey mixture was piped in on top, warm but not spicy. The thin tortilla chips were just strong enough to carry the load. It was slightly heavier than a crème fraiche, but so good.
Paul went for the Carne a la Parilla ($12), a half pound of flank steak strips with green bell pepper, onions and hunks of tomato, served up with handmade tortillas, sour cream and lettuce. The tortillas were a treat, soft and pliant. I liked the flank steak. It had the mouthfeel of a soft sirloin instead of what you expect from flank steak. He liked it, he ate it… he just didn’t feel he was eating anything special.
He shoulda had a tamale. I chose the Chicken Mole Tamales ($10.50), and on delivery I was overwhelmed with the scent of chocolate that rose from the banana-leaf wrapped packages. Easily unwrapped, the soft mesa and finely shredded chicken concealed strips of poblano pepper, red bell pepper and onion. It tasted like home. I mean, it tasted so familiar, so comfortable, I could cry. It didn’t LOOK like a mole creation, but the scents of chocolate blended so well with the tamale’s flavors… I like this dish. I hope it’s kept.

The one thing I was worried about was the dessert selection. One of my favorite things about Capi’s has been that there’s always at least four choices of great ever-changing desserts. No worries here. There were six selections — a raspberry cream cheese torte, crème brulee, flan, and chocolate pecan pie among them. The hubster of course chose the Triple Chocolate Pie — it was, as always, a rich chocolate custard and fluffy top. I got one decent shot before Hunter tried to plant her hand in the center of it. I barely got a bite.
Me? I’m really glad I ordered the Peanut Butter Patty. The concept — a pie rendition of a Girl Scout Peanut Butter Patty cookie — is deliciously executed. It was a thick peanut-butter-sandwich-cookie crumbled crust (I am assuming from the flavor) topped by a light peanut butter custard and a quarter inch thick slab of semi-sweet chocolate with an unsweetened peanut butter drizzle. Now, I did sorta smash into it — the chocolate on top was so thick that when I turned the edge of the fork on it the peanut butter custard underneath gave way. Flipped over, it was easier to eat. And extravagant. And rich. I took half home and had it for breakfast this morning and it was still rich. Desserts are $5.75.
So, the verdict? I’m going to miss the small plates concept. I liked it a lot. But that tamale and the queso were so good I think I could get past it. Paul feels otherwise — he liked the food but felt that there are so many Mexican restaurants in the city he’s concerned it might not survive. I have hopes, though.
Capi’s is still in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center, and you can still check out their website or call them at (501) 225-9600. See what you think and let me know.

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