Tucked in the Lakehill Shopping Center on JFK Boulevard in North Little Rock, Ira’s Park Hill Grill is easy to miss. It’s a simple, intimate space that many will remember E’s Bistro previously occupied. But the menu is impressive with fresh seafood dishes, steak, pasta, duck and lamb. Owner Ira Mittleman shares a little background and takes us on a trip around the world.
How has experiencing different cultures and traveling caused your cooking style to evolve?
…I have taken a little from everywhere I have traveled and cooked. I have dishes influenced by the south, by Europe and Asia, and of course the West. That is why I call my food New American cuisine. I hope it represents the melting pot of cultures that is our great country.
Where was your favorite place to cook, and why?
I really enjoyed cooking in California, because of the incredible variety of local ingredients including fruits, vegetables, fish and of course wine. I really liked cooking in Montana, because of the array of people I cooked for. Regular guests included Robert Redford, Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Ted Turner, Edwin Moses and many others.
Describe your most challenging experience as a chef.
There were two very challenging places. One was in Colorado, because the resort was at 10,000 feet above sea level. At that altitude cooking times and ingredient ratios change dramatically.
The other was cooking at a resort in the Bahamas. To open each night so many things have to be done, and so much has to fall in place to have a good shift. Well, to put it mildly, a sense of urgency does not exist there. I would order ingredients and they wouldn’t be on the boat. One Friday I had a full house and at 4:30 p.m. the man delivering the gas to fuel the stoves called and said, “No gas arrive on the island today, not come till Monday. No worries.” What, no worries? I had a full house and no way to cook for them.
What role has family played in your career?
Well, my mom was a great cook and an incredible baker. My dad was a master gardener. We had huge vegetable gardens, and dinner parties were always special. Dinner was a time for family and friends to gather….Especially in this busy world people need a place to go for that special date, important business meeting or just to reconnect.
What’s the best dish you’ve ever had? Where and why?
The dish I remember most was in a small restaurant in San Rafael, California. Wild Boar chop with chestnut puree. Enjoyed with an excellent French Burgundy. The food was simple, yet perfectly prepared and executed. Taste, texture, and appearance were spot on. I remember many a night enjoyed with family and friends telling stories….
Ira’s Park Hill Grill is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. They also serve brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Starting January 22, Ira’s will be one of 17 restaurants competing in the North Little Rock Dine Off to raise money for the Arkansas Foodbank.
3812 J.F.K. Blvd., North Little Rock, AR 72116 | (501) 771-6900 | www.IrasParkHillGrill.com