If you’ve been reading my gustatory musings for any time, you know that I bring a strong locavore sensibility to this work. I like to eat local food, and I prefer to dine at local restaurants. When I do business with a bank, grocer, optician, investment adviser, newspaper and, most definitely, restaurant, I like to know that the owner herself is available for a conversation, will look me in the eye, shake my hand, and offer me a fair deal. Continue reading →
Has Louisville reached the saturation point for pizza? Some of my foodie friends are aghast at the seemingly endless march of pizzerias that keep arriving in town. The Baxter Avenue/Bardstown Road and St. Matthews strips are particularly pizza-rich environments, but they’re everywhere – even, in today’s excursion, the far East End. Continue reading →
Just weeks after smacking a home run with El Taco Luchador, their tiny taqueria-style eatery in the midst of the Baxter Avenue fun zone, the team of Fernando and Christina Martinez and Fernando’s cousin Yaniel Martinez have slammed another rocketing blast high over the left field bleachers with The Place Downstairs. The place, specifically, is downstairs (via a quick elevator ride) within Mussel & Burger Bar, another of the Martinez’s growing list of restaurant success stories. Continue reading →
As the signature upscale shopping district in Tokyo, Ginza is a landmark akin to Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, Miraflores in Lima or Chicago’s purportedly magnificent Michigan Avenue. Which suggests that Ginza Asian Bistro, a newish suburban eatery in Louisville, has set itself to a mighty high standard with its choice of moniker.
When you first step through the door of this flashy spot on Shelbyville Road near Hurstbourne, with its pools of translucent blue, green and red lights marking out space on the ceilings and walls, lots of mirrors and an oversize lighted fish tank, you might feel a flash of high color and high tech that could make you think, “Ginza, yeah!” Continue reading →
If there was ever any doubt that pizza has truly become an all-American treat, it was surely put to rest with Pizzagate this week, when New York City’s new mayor Bill de Blasio provoked screams of outrage when he attacked a gooey pie at a Gotham pizzeria with – the horror – a knife and fork. “Blasphemy! No one would ever do such a thing in Italy,” the angry hordes shrieked.
“Je vais avoir le canard,” said my friend Anne, summoning a French teacher and one-time expat’s easy fluency.
Our server looked puzzled, though. “Maybe you could point it out on the menu,” he said, blushing a little. “I’m still learning the dishes.”
I’m not picking on the guy, though. He showed Hemingway-esque grace under fire as our party of four spent the evening on a lavish meal at Brasserie Provence. We enjoyed his service, a fine Loire Cabernet Franc and an excellent, mostly authentic Provencal meal while allowing plenty of slack for a kitchen slammed by capacity crowds on its first full weekend. Continue reading →
Okay, I have to admit, I was dubious at first about the idea of this new place in J’town bringing together mussels and burgers as its signature dishes.
When I heard that Cristina and Fernando Martinez and his cousin, Yaniel, were going to build a bill of fare around two such disparate edibles, my imagination pushed back: “One of these things is not like the other.” Continue reading →
My friend Anne and I wanted to catch a quick lunch close to the office the other day, so we wheeled down the way just a mile or two and cut into a gritty little strip center with a Mexican grocery and taqueria on one end and an Iranian grocery and shawarma shop on the other.
Downtown? Nope! This little center of international good eats sits on the south side of suburban Westport Road about halfway between Westport Village and Springhurst, but its culinary offerings differ mightily from the modern delights of the more traditional suburban centers. Continue reading →
Okay, let’s review the geography of pizza, nature’s most nearly perfect food.
Born in Naples, Italy, it came to the United States with Italian immigrants and soon became a favorite in New York City and the urban Northeast.
Like so many other things, this deliciously cheesy, tangy, salty supper on a plate went national with the Baby Boom. And as it grew, it evolved, taking on regional differences as cities made it their own. Continue reading →
Who doesn’t like a good, juicy burger? It’s ground bliss on a bun, and if you pair it with something else delicious and it gets even better. Burgers and cheese! Burgers and onions! Burgers and fries! Burgers and onion rings, oh my!
But “let’s go get some burgers and mussels” said no person ever. Until the recent arrival of Mussel & Burger Bar, that is, which suddenly has us musing about combinations of artistic dishes never tasted before. Continue reading →
Some guacamole walked into a bar, and the bartender said, “Hey! There’s a restaurant named after you.” “What? There’s a restaurant named Wilbur?”
Well, no. And my career as a stand-up comedian should probably end right there. After all, guacamole is nothing to joke about, or at least not much. And if you think guacamole is just some boring green stuff that you use as a dip at cheap Mexican restaurants, you might want to re-think that, too. Continue reading →
Bombay isn’t Bombay anymore, it’s Mumbai. And as India takes its native names back, Madras is Chennai, and Calcutta goes by Kolkata. But “Mumbai Grill” just doesn’t have the same curb appeal as Bombay Grill, somehow.
Still, even if you say “Mumbai” and I say “Bombay,” let’s not call the whole thing off. Recent visits to Bombay Grill have me persuaded that it’s leading the growing local pack of Indian restaurants in a hotly competitive food fight right now. The food seems authentic, an assumption that’s substantiated by the regular presence of crowds of happy Indian-American diners.
More important, the Indian food here is consistently delicious, served in bright, clean and comfortable suburban shopping center environs, and service has been invariably friendly, quick and smiling. We’ve got a half-dozen Indian eateries around town, and a couple have stuck for close to 15 years. It’s a good thing, and if you still haven’t really embraced Indian food, perhaps it’s time to give it a try.
If you don’t have much experience with Indian cuisine, we’ll excuse you if you think it’s nothing more than bowls of fiery-hot curry, rice and maybe a big bottle of Indian beer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you; but it’s worth knowing that Indian food is actually as diverse and interesting as India itself, and that’s saying a lot.
From its southern tip in the tropics to its northern heights that reach to the top of the Himalayas, India incorporates fields and farms, jungles and deserts, plains and great river valleys, some of the world’s tallest mountains, and nearly 5,000 miles of ocean coastline that provide a wealth of seafood.
With 1.2 billion people in a country about as large as all of Europe, India is the world’s second most populous country (after China), and is wildly diverse in religion, culture and custom. What that means to us is that some Indians shun beef but eat pork; some reject pork but dine happily on cow; and quite a few avoid eating animals at all, turning this preference into some of the world’s most interesting vegetarian fare.
Bombay Grill earns my applause for opening its menu to the full range of Indian regional cuisines, offering samples of all those flavors from just about every corner of the subcontinent. You can sample a broad selection on the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet ($7.99 weekdays, $9.99 Saturdays and Sundays).
The menu, though, offers a much wider range of treats than you’ll find even on its expansive buffet line, offering more than 100 options divided partly by primary ingredient (lamb, chicken, seafood, goat and vegetarian), partly by cooking style (tandoori oven, biryani rice dishes) and partly by region (dosai and uthappam from South India). It’s all affordable, the menu topping out at $12.99 for seafood courses, $10.99-$11.99 for most meat and seafood entrees, and $8.99-$9.99 for nearly two dozen vegetarian dishes.
We put the system to a stress test recently with a sizable group of 11 for dinner, a crowd that proved to be dwarfed by an even larger anniversary party. No worries — service and the kitchen handled the load well.
We passed around all manner of dishes, and really had no complaints about quality or preparation on anything. Even with a bountiful meal, our large group joined the clean-plate club.
We began by sharing four or five appetizers, including medhu vada ($3.99), which look like Nord’s finest but are actually dense and savory “fried donuts” made with lentil flour; samosa turnovers ($3.99), or spicy mashed potatoes and peas wrapped in fried pastry cones the shape of oversize Hershey Kisses; a South Indian masala dosai ($5.99), or a giant crepe rolled around spiced potatoes; and a veggie appetizer plate ($8.99), featuring four chutneys, pakoras (onion fritters), a snow-white iddly (rice bread), hot green chiles peeking out of a fried wrap, spiced fried potato wedges, another medhu vada and a samosa, and something called a “vegetable cutlet.”
Main courses passed around the table included such traditional goodies as chicken tikka masala ($10.99), tender chicken bites in an orange-pink, mildly spicy tomato and butter sauce; chicken tandoori ($10.99), bright red and sizzling from the clay oven with sliced onions; and lamb saag ($11.99), chunks of lamb in a savory spinach-and-cream sauce.
Goat chettinad ($11.99) consisted of flavorful but mild goat meat on the bone, (unfortunately more bone than meat) in a South Indian toasted-spice sauce. My favorite, malai kofta ($9.99), featured six bite-size veggie “meatballs” made of finely minced veggies fried in crisp, breaded spheres, then dunked into a delicious and complex sauce of tomatoes, finely ground cashews and fiery spice.
An average share for dinner would have been about $30 per couple; we picked up the appetizers and a big Indian beer and still got out for $66.15 plus tip.