The art of food

Crystal Bridges restaurant, Eleven, is led by renowned local chef Bill Lyle

Posted: March 2, 2014 at 6 a.m.

The restaurant Eleven, located inside the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, offers cuisine inherently inspired by its art and valley surroundings.

The expansive dining room bridges a pond of the namesake Crystal Spring and features architectural elements of copper cladding, timber arches, steel beams and unframed glass.

The food is described as "High-South," which blends Southern comfort food, locally sourced ingredients and high-quality presentation.

Under the leadership of executive chef Bill Lyle, Eleven is an admirable pairing to the world-class museum.

Lyle has strong resume of notable experience in his 31, soon to be 32, years that includes executive chef of Ella's Restaurant at Carnall Hall in Fayetteville, member of the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotions Commission and national recognition as one of the Best Chefs in America in 2013.

His platform of early success in life is supported by pillars of respect, hospitality, earnestness and consideration. Those platforms and his desire to create a beautiful experience with food are relevant to his relationship with his staff and his guests. That is also the case for staff's relationships with each other and their patrons.

"Chef Lyle's dynamic, yet accessible style of cuisine promises to be a perfect fit for Eleven's mantra of modern American comfort food," said director of culinary services Case Dighero.

Lyle also created the menu and led the kitchen at The Walton Arts Center's Winemaker Dinner from 2010-13. He was excited to be a part of the more elaborate offerings at Eleven, such as the Tasting Menu and CR(EAT)E.

The Tasting Menu is inspired monthly or bi-monthly by the temporary exhibition in the museum. For March, the art is Andy Warhol's Coca-Cola [3].

The three-course meal embraces pop-art ingenuity, is served during dinner hours and is priced at $35 per guest, or $50 per guest with wine pairing.

The first course is Osso Bucco wings, where the tips of the drumstick are cut and the tendon removed so the meat balls up on the center of the bone.

"I like to take comfort-style food, like wings, and make it presentable on a fine dining menu," Lyle said.

The chicken wings have an Asian-style Coca-Cola glaze and are served on a carrot-daikon radish slaw.

The second course is a seared pork tenderloin encrusted with the spices and flavors of the Coca-Cola recipe. The chop is served with Gorgonzola whipped potatoes, dried figs and shiitake mushrooms in a cola reduction.

The final course is a flourless Coca-Cola and Ghiradelli chocolate cake topped with bourbon black-cherry gelato. Baked in mason jar and served with a straw for garnish, the dessert parodies a bourbon Coke float.

CR(EAT)E is a dining experience with a food and wine presentation. The next dinner will be March 16 and offers a five-course menu paired with wine for $120, or $96 for members.

Chef Lyle will cook each dish on a stage in front of the guests while the kitchen simultaneously prepares that course in the kitchen. As the chef finishes each plate, the room will flush with servers bringing out individual plates for the guests to enjoy.

Lyle has made few, but significant, changes to Eleven since he was hired in August.

"(The previous chef) Jacob, had a good thing going and people enjoyed the menu," Lyle said. "I enhanced a few dishes, like with the shrimp and grits I added Boar's Head smoked gouda; fresh, sauteed veggies; and a red pepper coulis."

The restaurant offers a concise menu, particularly at lunch, to handle the high volume of guests. With a modest menu, the kitchen can offer a high-quality product produced in a reasonable amount of time and ease.

Although with sometimes 300 guests at dinner and 1,000 guests at lunch, "reasonable" is highly relative.

The regular menu remains fairly consistent, with adjustments made to include more seasonal and local items as they are available.

"One of my goals here, and has been a goal of the restaurant since Crystal Bridges opened, is to become more local," Lyle said.

Even when local produce is not available, there are still ways to support local artisans, he said.

Currently, top local providers include War Eagle Mill, Sweden Creek Farms and Ozark Mountain Poultry.

Lunch is served 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily, except Tuesday when the museum is closed. The menu includes a soup of the day, Caesar or market salad, black Angus burger, grilled portobello sandwich and signature dishes such as chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, or beans and cornbread.

Eleven is open for dinner 5-9 p.m. Wednesday and Friday only, and reservations are recommended. The dinner menu adds to the lunch offerings by adding more appetizers and entrees. Highlights include Sweden Creek shiitake mushroom and onion fritters, gorgonzola and fig brushetta, wild-caught Atlantic salmon and a Berkshire pork chop.

The restaurant, set just inside the main entrance of the museum, also has a cafe that serves coffee drinks and light fare.

More information is available online at crystalbridges.org/eleven or by calling (479) 418-5700.

NAN Dining Guide Cover on 03/02/2014

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