Category Archives: Hurstbourne, Middletown, Jeffersontown

Mimi’s: Popular chain lands on Hurstbourne

Mimi's
Mimi’s occupies the renovated former quarters of Don Pablo’s on Hurstbourne. Photo by Robin Garr

(Voice-Tribune, March 8, 2007)

When it comes to dining out, I’m usually inclined to look for a well-run locally owned and operated eatery, where the chances are that the person who has to meet the payroll is the same individual who cooks your dinner or greets you at the door.

In the practical reality of today’s corporate world, however, franchise and chain restaurants abound; in the suburbs, it’s fair to say that chain eateries significantly outnumber the locals. Drive the length of Hurstbourne, for instance, and once you’re past Tony Boombozz, the elegant Limestone and the Bristol, you’ve pretty much exhausted your independent-owner options.

But let’s face it: Bean counters and quarterly balance sheets to the contrary notwithstanding, the chains must be doing something right, as these eateries generally pack in crowds of seemingly happy customers. Continue reading Mimi’s: Popular chain lands on Hurstbourne

Fat Tuesday Valentine at Joe’s OK Bayou

Joe's OK Bayou
Nothing says “I love you”: like a plate of gumbo, jambalaya and fried crawfish tails from Joe’s OK Bayou. Dig in! Photo by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Joe’s OK Bayou, Ramsi’s Cafe on the World)

It’s a long way from the Louisiana bayou country to the shopping centers that are rapidly replacing forests and fields on New Albany’s far north side, but once you step into Joe’s OK Bayou, the distance seems to disappear. Or some of it, anyway.

Like its Kentucky-side counterpart in Plainview, this relatively new edition of Joe’s (it opened the autumn before last) turns bland shopping-center space into a modest replica of a Cajun-country saloon. The walls are painted to resemble a fishing shack surrounded by cypress trees and subtropical birds. Zydeco music in the background and glowing Abita beer signs complete the Acadian ambience, and the food does a reasonably good job of evoking the bayou country, too. Continue reading Fat Tuesday Valentine at Joe’s OK Bayou

We belly up to the Indian buffet

Shalimar
Serving fine Indian fare for more than a dozen years, Shalimar is Louisville’s longest-lived Indian eatery. Photo by Robin Garr

(Voice-Tribune, Jan. 11, 2007)

I’ve loved Indian food ever since I first discovered it as a youngster during a long-ago trip to London, where I was instantly smitten by the curry houses around Victoria Station.

I came home with a lifelong love for this exciting, aromatic and sometimes fiery fare, but it took years before it would be easy to enjoy it in Louisville. Through the ’80s and into the ’90s, it seemed, our city simply wasn’t ready for such exotic cuisine, and a sad series of short-lived family-run Indian restaurants came and went.

Eventually, though, a few Indian spots showed staying power, and for the past few years we’ve enjoyed a choice of at least three good options – Kashmir in the Highlands, Shalimar on Hurstbourne near I-64, and India Palace, which moved last year from the Buechel area to Shelbyville Road near Hurstbourne.
Continue reading We belly up to the Indian buffet

Get ready for the Year of the Pig, at Liang’s Café

Snow White Fish
Liang’s Snow White Fish is as pretty as its name and tastes even better. Photo by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes

In Western culture, even those of us who’ve learned to prize the tasty joys of pigmeat can’t fully escape our Old Testament heritage: Calling an associate “pig” will not win you friends or influence people.

The Chinese, however, informed by nearly five millennia of pig-loving heritage, take a broader view: In the legend and lore of the mysterious East, the noble swine is considered loyal, chivalrous and pure of heart.

Lunar Year 4705, the Year of the Pig, is coming on Feb. 18, and I for one plan to enjoy plenty of Chinese food before, during and after the 15-day celebration.
Continue reading Get ready for the Year of the Pig, at Liang’s Café

Craving Crustaceans

“I have yet to meet a pile of shrimp that I was not immediately on good terms with and could not devour promptly,” says Eat ‘N’ Blog correspondent KIM MASSEY. “My deep affection for these little parcels of protein is well matched with my passion for ethnic foods. It’s a fortunate thing, then, that Louisville’s ethnic restaurant community offers so many opportunities to indulge these cravings.”
Needless to say, Kim was quick to volunteer for the challenge of finding some of the region’s most delightful ethnic shrimp dishes. This is her crustacean-loving report:

Let’s start with a duo of appetizers that come dangerously close to displacing shrimp and grits as my favorite way to begin a meal.
The Banh Xeo ($5.60) at Vietnam Kitchen is an inspired creation. An eggy crepe that falls somewhere between a pancake and an omelet, Banh Xeo is pan-fried to a decidedly crispy exterior, then folded over stir-fried shrimp and bean sprouts in a simple but complementary combination of tastes and textures. The salty-sweet acidity of the soy-based sauce provides a perfect foil for the rich crepe. It’s one of those appetizers that you would gladly order in entrée-sized portion, if only you could! (One possibility: Order two.)

Vietnam Kitchen
5339 Mitscher Ave.
363-5154

The Camarones de Alio ($6.99) served at Havana Rumba offer a sumptuous prelude to any meal. A half-dozen plump, tail-on shrimp are sautéed in a simple sauce of olive oil and butter with a smidgen of red pepper and lashings of minced garlic, served sizzling in their clay-pot cooking vessel. This is culinary minimalism at its finest. It’s served with warm, crusty French bread, perfect for mopping up the delightful sauce after the sweet and tender shrimp are down the hatch.

Havana Rumba
4115 Oechsli Ave.
897-1959

That’s just the beginning of the diverse and delicious shrimp dishes available at the city’s ethnic eateries. Consider the shrimp tips ($13) at Queen of Sheba. This splendid dish combines shrimp, onions, tomatoes and green peppers, lightly sautéed in butter with Ethiopian spices. It is served with Kik Wot – a mound of creamy stewed split lentils that would make a satisfying vegetarian dish in itself. Both shrimp and lentils are piled atop injera, the spongy, pancake-like Ethiopian flatbread, which adds a hearty element to an otherwise light entrée. This delightfully complex dish will leave you clamoring to sample more of this wonderful cuisine.

Queen of Sheba Ethiopian
3315 Bardstown Road
459-6301

Another shrimp dish, less subtle but just as satisfying, is the Camarones al Chipotle ($11.50) served at Fiesta Mexicana. A dozen plump shrimp are liberally smothered in a rich, dark sauce of tomatoes and chipotle peppers, with a sprinkling of just-melted Chihuahua cheese. Its smoky heat packs quite a punch, which can be pleasantly tempered with a dollop of sour cream. Served with a side of savory Mexican rice and salad, it’s a hearty, warming dish, a welcome respite to a cold winter evening.

Fiesta Mexicana
5414 Bardstown Road
762-0840

When my crustaceous cravings unite with a desire for the familiar, I beat a hasty retreat to India Palace – a regular port of refuge for a sometimes homesick Brit. It can be so difficult to choose just one dish from the many impressive shrimp options that I frequently give up the struggle and select a contrasting duo. The volcanic, spicy, tangy, Shrimp Vindaloo ($11.95) creates a delightful reverse trajectory of creeping warmth from the back of the throat to the tip of the tongue. It partners perfectly with the mild and aromatic Shrimp Saag ($11.95), a delicate light curry that combines spices, herbs, spinach and a dash of cream. Add a side of Pilau rice, a warm fluffy round of naan flatbread, and there you have it: a culinary hug from a much loved friend!

India Palace
9424 Shelbyville Road
394-0490

Chains – Was Mr. Marx right?

P.F. Chang's
Long waits were common when P.F. Chang’s opened in Louisville last year. Photo by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(P.F. Chang’s, Cheesecake Factory)

“Unite,” Karl Marx urged the workers of the world. “You have nothing to lose but your chains.” And speaking of chains, my experiences with dining at the franchised variety too often remind me of another Marx – Groucho – who famously said, “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”

Please note that I’m not simply bashing all chains, sight unseen. I’ve had splendid meals at quite a few, and published glowing reviews. But whether you’re looking at a restaurant chain like Cheddar’s or a newspaper chain like Gannett, simple logic argues that when corporate bean counters rule spending, corner-cutting and diminished quality are likely to follow. Chains simply operate under different constraints than an independent local business run by an owner-chef whose passion drives him or her to excel regardless of costs.

This seems to work, most of the time. Consider the popularity of the Louisville Originals restaurants and similar locally owned eateries: You’ll find few chains knocking the locals out of any critic’s list of Top 10 places to dine.

And yet … some chains clearly do something right, because hungry crowds fairly knock down their doors. Take the suburban culinary meccas P.F. Chang’s and Cheesecake Factory. The three-hour waits of the early days may have diminished a little since they opened last autumn, but eager diners still line up hungrily at dinner time.

What is their secret? Continue reading Chains – Was Mr. Marx right?