Category Archives: Ethnic & Eclectic

It’s fast … it’s casual … it’s Asian!

Lettuce wraps
The lettuce wraps at Yang Kee Noodle (top) and I Ching Asian Cafe are similar, but Yang Kee provides more lettuce and goodies on the side. Photos by Robin Garr

(Yang Kee Noodle, I Ching Asian Cafe, Voice-Tribune, July 12, 2007)

If you like the fresh, healthy and enticing flavors of the colorful cuisines of East Asia, but feel a little wary about dining at ethnic eateries where the menu is printed in a language you can’t speak, then fast-casual Asian dining may be just right for you.

Coming from the West Coast, as so many modern food trends do, this spreading development is largely carried by franchise chains like Pei Wei (P.F. Chang’s little brother), Rice Boxx, Pick Up Stix Fresh Asian Kitchen, Chef Martin Yan’s Yan Can and Tokyo Joe’s.

Like the similarly swelling wave of “fresh burrito” chains, competition is keen in this niche, and the concepts are so similar that sometimes the only way to tell where you’re dining is to look at the corporate logo.

None of the Asian chains have reached Louisville yet, but the concept is going strong in the East End, with two independent properties competing from shopping-center venues just a mile apart on Shelbyville Road.
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We like smut. It’s good.

Bruce Ucan
After a brief hiatus, former Mayan Gypsy chef Bruce Ucan is back at it with Mayan Café, in the East Market location where Mayan Gypsy started out. LEO Photo by Nicole Pullen

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes

Smut. Corn smut. It’s a nasty name for a nasty-looking thing, a black, disgusting fungus that turns corn kernels into swollen gray blobs that look like an alien mutation, a sight so gross that the ancient Aztecs named the stuff “cuitlacoche” or, literally, well, “black turds.”

Although cuitlacoche may look like something the dog dragged in, it tastes really, really good. So, while North American farmers curse and destroy smut-afflicted corn, Mexican growers are more inclined to praise Lord Quetzalcoatl, peel off the pillowy black fungus and serve it for lunch. Or put some in cans and ship it north to savvy restaurateurs.

Selling it to Anglos can be a challenge, though, so the few eateries around the United States that serve cuitlacoche (pronounced “wheat-la-COH-chay”) generally describe it with more appetizing euphemisms. “Mexican caviar,” for instance. Or, at Louisville’s excellent Mayan Café, “exotic mushroom,” appended to the Aztec “cuitlacoche” without the literal translation.
Continue reading We like smut. It’s good.

Zen and the art of vegetarian dining

Big Salad
Big Salad: City Café’s Jim Henry used to make this big salad for himself, but his customers at the Mid-City Mall location convinced him to add it to the menu. It’s a vegetarian meal in itself. Photos by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(City Café, Zen Garden, Shiraz)

I’m a carnivore, an obligate carnivore. I like meat and find it hard to imagine life without beefsteaks, pork chops, poultry or fish on my plate.

And yet … and yet … when I wax philosophical, I can see some strong arguments for vegetarianism.

I can see it when I think about eating for health and nutrition; and I can see it when I remember reading “Diet for a Small Planet” back in the day, and learning just how many resources are spent on getting a steak to my table.
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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