Hardings' Cache Restaurant a Clarion Call for Good Times in River Market

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 12:00 am  

A bank of floor-to-ceiling windows faces Clinton Avenue on the first floor, and the second holds a bar and dance floor.

The kitchen is open to the views of diners, who can pull a stool up to the marble bar separating kitchen from dining room for close-up study. And a large round table anchors the chef’s dining room, a private room right off the kitchen where the chef can mingle with favored guests.

Payne Harding, 27, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., is a chef and owner of Cache, along with his father. Joining Payne in leading the restaurant is Matthew Cooper, executive chef and general manager and formerly executive chef at Lulav in Little Rock.

Asked to describe the menu, Cooper calls it “classic European. By classic European, we mean things that have classic flavor profiles.”

Take, for contrast, a big bowl of what Cooper calls “Americanized pasta.”

“You get a big bowl of pasta, you get sauce all over it, and you get meatballs,” he says.

But at Cache, a pasta dish like the restaurant’s Calabrian pasta and crab has a different aesthetic. “All it is is fresh oregano, a nice tomato sauce, fresh crab and Calabrian chilies to give it a little bit of spice,” Cooper says. “The pasta shines, not the sauce.”

On the dinner menu, appetizers rise in price from $11 for fritto misto calamari to the “please ask your server” range for oysters or “today’s caviar and accompaniments.” Entrees are priced at $21 for an herb-roasted half-chicken to $74 for the hearth-fired cowboy rib-eye.

Cache also offers lunch, with an heirloom beet salad at $8 to a blackened salmon burger at $11 to a smoked sausage, red pepper and camembert pizza at $12.

Cooper promises many gluten-free options. And Jeff Yant, the sommelier at 1620 Savoy, the west Little Rock restaurant also co-owned by Payne Harding, will bring his wine guidance to Cache.

When the restaurant opens for lunch and dinner, scheduled for Jan. 7, it will operate from 11 a.m. to a last seating at 9:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Cache seats 113 on the first floor, 71 upstairs and 87 outside when weather permits. The restaurant will employ about 60.

Construction on the $14 million, 59,000-SF Arcade Building, at the corner of Clinton and River Market avenues, began in October 2012. The mixed-use project is a joint venture between the Central Arkansas Library System and Moses Tucker Real Estate.



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