Photographs by Jennifer Christman
Drinks at Agasi 7 include cocktails like the 40 Winks Chiller of vodka, triple sec, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and pineapple juice, as well as wine.
Thursday, January 11, 2018
The Kitchen part of Agasi 7 Rooftop Bar + Kitchen, atop downtown Little Rock's Hilton Garden Inn, didn't have us raising the roof.
But a dazzling view and decent drinks make Agasi's Rooftop and Bar parts considerably more palatable.
Agasi 7 Rooftop Bar + Kitchen
Address: Atop the Hilton Garden Inn, 322 Rock St., Little Rock
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Cuisine: Pizza, burgers, salads, small plates
Credit cards: AE, D, MC,V,
Alcoholic beverages: Full bar
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Just getting to Agasi comes with challenges. It's downtown. Those who don't luck into free street parking will have to pay. Unlike, say the Capital Hotel, which offers free valet to restaurant guests, this hotel charges guests of Agasi (and the Garden Grill, which serves breakfast from 6-10 a.m. and dinner from 4-10 p.m. -- no lunch -- in the lobby) a whopping $8 and, yes, tips are accepted on top of that.
Private-access Agasi, pronounced Ah-gah-si, is on the hotel's seventh (hence the 7 in the name) and highest floor; an employee with an elevator key must grant entry. From there, one can choose -- on milder nights -- to sit outside on the spacious patio where cushioned couches and chairs offer comfort, strung lights add to city glow and heaters provide warmth.
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Photos by Jennifer Christman
Photos by Jennifer Christman
Or choose to sit inside at pub and regular tables in the contemporary space, accented with vibrant neon lights and a couple of funky overhead fixtures. There are plenty of windows to look out (my, even the bus station looks pretty at night) -- unless you're seated with your back to them, in which case your view is of the open kitchen.
From there, it's time to order a drink. Perhaps a local draft from Lost 40, Flyway, Diamond Bear, Core, Rebel Kettle or Stone's Throw ($5-6). Perhaps a fancy cocktail ($8-9) like the fruity 40 Winks Chiller of vodka, triple sec, peach schnapps and cranberry and pineapple juices, garnished, as requested, with extra fruit and fanfare. Perhaps a glass of wine ($5-$11; the Caymus Conundrum red blend, $9, is a nice one). If you can call that a glass. We referred to Agasi's tiny stemless vessels with seemingly small pours as "sippy cups."
From there, order a second drink. It will help to dilute any food disappointments.
Our first dining experience at Agasi was agony.
Having noticed that several diners around us were enjoying the Charcuterie ($11), a pretty-looking platter of meats and cheeses from the "Shareables" portion of the menu, we ordered one as we considered our main courses. Our server applauded our choice, praising the fabulous smoked gouda.
What arrived at our table was smaller and sadder by comparison. Slices of meats -- prosciutto, cappicola and salami, were artlessly thrown on (and hanging off) the wooden board, which featured no Wisconsin cheddar, as the menu had promised. A hunk of mozzarella was tossed on there, as were slivers of something we thought must be almonds; instead it was the smoked Gouda, which deserved better. A zippy mustard and toasted baguette slices were included, as were olives -- not proud, plump whole olives, but rather sorry sliced black olives straight from a can.
For our "Mains," my friend ordered the Cedar Plank Salmon ($18) and I ordered the Classic Ribeye ($27.50). A long time passed before our friendly server broke the news that I was out of luck, and they were out of steak.
No problem. Still in a mood for beef, I ordered the Heavenly Seven Burger ($14). Surely that could be prepared quickly. We had timed our visit for two hours prior to a show, but now the clock was ticking.
With promises that my burger was on its way any second, my friend's salmon arrived. I told her to go ahead and eat.
She would have, if her salmon had been edible. The undercooked flabby, supposedly oven-roasted fish filet was more like sashimi inside. And the "house made vegetable hash" was an unimpressive mess of asparagus, onion and carrots that added to the unsightliness of the plate.
But at least she got food. My burger never arrived. And at this point, we just needed to leave. When we asked for the bill, the apologetic server insisted that our appetizer and wine was on the house -- a very classy move. So we left Agasi hungry, but at least not with a totally bad taste in our mouths.
The same server would wait on us again when we returned a month later (giving them plenty of time to work the kinks out) with another friend. At least we knew she'd treat us right if the kitchen didn't.
Our second experience was better (could it have been worse?), though not excellent. While we received all the food we ordered (although not always as promised on the menu), much of it was forgettable.
From the Shareables menu, we ordered an assortment: the Thai Curry-Spiced Deviled Eggs ($4.75), the Ginger Garlic Wings ($9.50) and the Spinach Artichoke Dip ($7.50).
The six egg halves, dotted with scallions and served with a drizzle of sriracha, were tasty; of course there's really no way to mess up deviled eggs. Agreed one friend, "The spicy deviled eggs were good, but most things with Sriracha are."
I found the rather puny serving of six Ginger Garlic Wings with a couple of anemic celery and carrot sticks and a cilantro ranch rather pale and lifeless. A friend liked them however, or she just really didn't like anything else: "I think this was the best part of the meal," she said about the wings, noting about the celery and carrots, however, that "the veg looked a little worn."
As for the spinach dip, sprinkled with Parmesan, comments ranged from "eh" to "pretty standard fare." The menu said the dip was to be served with baguette slices, but what accompanied it was some kind of pita chips. Stale, chewy ones at that.
As I never did try the burger the last visit (and because I no longer wanted to risk $27.50 on a steak here), I ordered it again. And while I'm not sure the burger -- a seasoned beef patty heartily heaped with grilled onions, roasted mushrooms, "rooftop sauce," cheddar and smoked Gouda cheeses, roasted tomato and arugula on a brioche bun -- was worth the wait, it was quite good, which it ought to be for $14. Instead of fries, I requested the green beans and mushrooms, which had a pleasing Southern smokiness.
One friend ordered the Southern Cobb Salad ($12). She deemed the layers of romaine, grilled chicken, bacon, egg, roasted pecans, blue cheese crumbles and roasted corn as satisfactory. But, she said, "The main problem I had was that the pecans were chopped up into little tiny pieces so I didn't even feel like I was getting a taste of the pecans," likening it to Gouda fail from the last visit.
While Agasi has a 575-degree oven for pizzas and flatbreads, they haven't mastered it. "They won't win any awards for their pizzas," said the orderer of the Hawaiian pizza ($8.50), described on the menu as having "prosciutto, caramelized onions and ginger-glazed pineapple on mozzarella and fontina cheeses." She continued, "The crust looked and tasted very ... Sysco. The toppings -- the same. The menu should never be more appetizing than the food."
So we should have known that a shared S'more Flatbread ($5) probably wouldn't delight as a dessert. But we saw the word Nutella and couldn't resist. Featuring the hazelnut spread, graham cracker crumbs, toasted pecans, melted marshmallow and caramel on the same crust previously panned, we scraped the sweet, sticky topping off and just ate it.
As a supplemental dessert, two of us ordered Choco Rock Tinis ($9), made of vanilla vodka, Kahlua, Godiva liqueur and cream, served in chocolate-drizzled glasses with a floating skewer of raspberries. It was sweet, and wow, strong. We could only manage a couple of sips.
Had we finished those, we would have needed rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Weekend on 01/11/2018
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