Category Archives: $$$ Upscale ( $50 – $80)

Eat the veggies first at Club Grotto

Club Grotto
Club Grotto head chef Mike Driskell doesn’t give the humble vegetable short shrift. And you don’t even have to be a vegetarian to appreciate their trademark all-vegetable dinner course, the aptly named “Vegetable Orgy.” LEO Photo by Nicole Pullen.

LEO’s Eats with Louisville HotBytes
(Club Grotto; Old Town wine totes)

Eat your vegetables!

This exhortation, so often directed at children, for many of us leaves lingering psychic echoes that ring down the years into adulthood. Veggies? Who needs them? Real men eat meat and potatoes … don’t they?

I count myself among the willing but vaguely reluctant vegetable eaters: I’ll force down a portion, knowing that I should, but rarely get the same kind of excitement out of it that I naturally derive from a great steak, shellfish or even a cheese or pasta dish.

Frankly, I think some of Louisville’s top chefs share this aversion. Too often, even at the city’s finest restaurants, I’ll get a great meal with a careless blob of reheated frozen veggies right out of the bag, tossed on the side of my dinner plate as an obvious afterthought.

This doesn’t happen at Club Grotto. Continue reading Eat the veggies first at Club Grotto

By any name, Varanese is a winner

Varanese – named for chef John Varanese, who’s been chef at the Cardinal Club and the late, great Azalea – opened last month in the old Red Lounge on Frankfort Avenue. The space has been completely renovated, and the food recalls Azalea. Photo by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes

I was really excited when I heard about this new restaurant. Its name sounded like “Veronese.” Verona! The legendary home of Romeo and Juliet is one of my favorite cities anywhere, and Veronese food and wine rank among my favorite cuisines. If this new place was going to feature the delicious dishes of Northeastern Italy’s Veneto region, I would be a happy boy.

Duh. I wasn’t listening close enough. That’s VarAnese, not VerOnese. Never mind!

In fact, this new dining room – it opened Aug. 20 in the former Red Lounge – is named for its owner and chef, John Varanese; and that’s not a bad thing, not bad at all.
Continue reading By any name, Varanese is a winner

We take Rivue for a spin

On the 25th floor of the Galt House, the hotel’s former idiosyncrasies have yielded to the elegant furnishings of Rivue, a brand new upscale restaurant with an amazing 360-degree view of the city. LEO Photo by Nicole Pullen

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Rivue; Caffe Classico’s new pizza)

The late developer Al J. Schneider, never a man to pay much attention to negative counsel, pretty much went it alone when he built the Galt House on Louisville’s then-moribund waterfront in 1973.

Schneider lived long enough to enjoy vindication as a vibrant redeveloped downtown scene rose around his venture, which bore the name of a historic 19th century hostelry where Charles Dickens once stayed.

But if the truth be told, a lot of people are still chuckling at the combination of hard-headedness and wacky design sense that inspired him to create the place in a style that can only be described as “idiosyncratic.”

Shocking pink met pukey green, and plaid introduced itself to paisley in an odd high-rise that used to boast the simple letters “H-O-T-E-L” running vertically down its river facade, surmounted by a pair of oversize, revolving view restaurants that from the outside resembled nothing so much as bulging bullfrog eyes.
Continue reading We take Rivue for a spin

54 bottles of wine on the wall …

Lamb pops
L&N Wine Bar and Bistro’s “lamb pops,” four bite-sized lamb chops over large Israeli couscous. It’s an appetizer that’s substantial enough to serve as a light main course. Photos by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes

I’ve been predisposed to like L&N Wine Bar and Bistro ever since it opened. I’m a wine geek, and the owners are wine geeks. With its majestic wall of wine, a 54-bottle Cruvinet wine-storage facility and dispenser that’s the largest made, it boasts a wine program that’s second to none.

More than 100 wines are available for tasting, from as little as $2.50 for 2-ounce “taste” of several value-priced items to $60 for a bottle of more upscale wine. Connoisseurs may also choose from a short daily list of higher-end wines on the Cruvinet, or peruse the book-length cellar list.

But you don’t have to be a wine geek to enjoy this place: Continue reading 54 bottles of wine on the wall …

Psst! Try this Derby Daily Double

Shaking beef
Basa Modern Vietnamese’s Shaking Beef, a dish made famous by San Francisco’s Slanted Door. Photos by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Basa Modern Vietnamese, Mojito)

Derby is big in Louisville, not just for racing but for restaurants, too. If you don’t have reservations already for the popular spots, you’re pretty much out of luck unless you’re willing to take a place in line.

Restaurateurs rush to get new eateries open for Derby frenzy, scheduling grand openings to catch the Derby tide. Last year it was Proof on Main, Nio’s and the short-lived Danielle’s. In 2005 we got Blu in the Marriott, 316 Ormsby and that wacky Fourth Street Live.

This year two sophisticated new eateries with ethnic flavors form a winning daily double: Basa Modern Vietnamese in Crescent Hill is named after a Vietnamese fish. Mojito in Holiday Manor is named for a Cuban libation. Both spots are welcome additions, already generating a noisy buzz. You can put them both into an exacta box: They’re sure winners.
Continue reading Psst! Try this Derby Daily Double

Big-city dining at bucolic Holly Hill

Holly Hill
Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Ky., is located in a beautiful brick structure that dates back more than 150 years. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Kim Massey.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Holly Hill Inn, Gourmet to Go’s rye bread, Oceanside Seafood)

Call me an unreconstructed urbanite, but I tend to assume that if you desire sophisticated fare in an upscale environment, you’ll want to stay close to the city.

Sure, there are exceptions, with jewels like Limestone and Ferd Grisanti in the chain-rich suburbs, and worthy dining destinations even in the outer ring of suburbs, from RockWall above New Albany to Norma Jean’s Trackside and Westport General Store out in Oldham County, just to name a few.

But who’d have thought that one of Kentucky’s most sophisticated eateries – so good that it attracts national media attention – resides in tiny Midway, a good hour’s drive east of downtown Louisville, so far out into the Bluegrass that you’ve got to drive past Waddy and Peytona to get there?

It’s true. Featured in such publications as Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and Southern Living and invited to show their stuff at James Beard House in New York City in June 2004, the husband-and-wife team of owner-restaurateurs Chris and Ouita Michel have put Midway not only on Kentucky’s culinary map but the nation’s with their Holly Hill Inn. Continue reading Big-city dining at bucolic Holly Hill

Drop your Kentucky prejudice and head to Bistro New Albany

Bluegrass Bistro
Bistro New Albany occupies much of the ground floor of the old New Albany Inn. Photo by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes

I always feel a little like I’m traveling to another country when I cross the river into Indiana. Maybe it’s just guilt over having told so many bad Hoosier jokes, but I get this uneasy feeling that someone is going to stand up, point an angry finger in my general direction, and yell “Kentuckian! J’accuse!” Or the Indiana equivalent.

So, I hope all my Hoosier friends won’t be offended when I admit that just about every time I visit downtown New Albany, I feel some sense of surprise when I look around and realize, for the umpteenth time, “Hey, this place is really nice.”

With its intact blocks of sturdy, historic office buildings and its lovely rows of stately Victorian mansions, N’Albany seems to have just about everything a city could want – with the possible exception, unfortunately, of a busy, vibrant street scene after the sun goes down.
Continue reading Drop your Kentucky prejudice and head to Bistro New Albany

Earlier reviews of upscale restaurants ($40 – $60)

The links below go to earlier reviews:

Bendoya Sushi Bar
Bonefish Grill
Bourbons Bistro
Buca di Beppo
Captain’s Quarters
Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Club Grotto
Corner Cafe and Pizzeria
Del Frisco’s
Erika’s German Restaurant
Ferd Grisanti’s
Fuji Japanese Steakhouse
Havana Rumba
India Palace
Jack Fry’s
Martini Italian Bistro
Napa River Grill
Osaka, a Sushi Bar
Palermo Viejo
Pat’s Steakhouse
The Patron
Sakura Blue
Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse
Shakertown At Pleasant Hill
Shalimar Indian Restaurant
Tokyo Japanese Restaurant