Well, hey now. What’s this? A new restaurant reviewer at The Courier-Journal? How about that! This sort of thing fascinates me because I used to occupy that pulpit myself, as dining critic for the late, great Louisville Times (and, after its death, The CJ) until I left the building in 1990.
Hey, when did fusion cuisine stop being a thing? It seems like only yesterday – well, OK, maybe it was the ’80s and ’90s – when top chefs had everyone oohing and aahing over such multicultural goodies as Wolfie Puck’s smoked salmon and caviar pizza at Beverly Hills’ Ma Maison or Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s pricey Thai-French mash-ups at his almost-eponymous Vong restaurant in New York City. Continue reading
Life as a hunter-gatherer was hard, no question about that. As the philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously put it, this life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
But at least paleolithic humans didn’t have to make many decisions at supper time. Knock over an animal, whack off a chunk and chow down. Cooking it was optional, once people learned to tame fire. It was only when humans settled down in agricultural societies about 10,000 years ago that culinary life got complicated. Continue reading
Does the Buddha daydream?
As the ancient story is told, more than 2,500 years ago when Siddharta Gautama experienced his awakening, his six years of meditation and study provided him with sudden vast insight into the meaning of life. Thus he became the Buddha, “The Awakened One,” and one of the world’s great religious traditions was born.
So meditate me this: Does an Awakened One sleep? Probably not. What would be the point? But surely the Buddha daydreams, for what is daydreaming, after all, but random meditation?
Buddha’s Daydream! It’s a Zen koan, and it’s a dish at Saigon Cafe in St. Matthews. Continue reading
“Hack-hack! Ker-CHOO! Cough! Snort!” Aw, kee-rap! Mary’s got a cold, and it sounds like a monster. This can’t be good. Not only do I wish no ill on my dear bride, but also let’s face it: When Momma’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy.
What to do? What to do? I know! Chicken noodle soup!
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
Ponder this: An Indian cooking technique based on clay pot principles as old as civilization can generate temperatures up to a roaring 900 degrees F. That’s hot enough to put even your neighborhood pizza oven to shame, and it’s even hotter than your home oven gets when it’s self-cleaning at full-blast and locked up for your protection. Happily, you can sample food kissed with primal fire in the cylindrical clay oven called tandoor (“Tahn-DUR”) at quite a few local Indian restaurants. Continue reading
Okay, let’s run the numbers here. Vietnam Kitchen has been open for about 20.5 years, six days a week. That’s roughly 6,500 days of serving the public since Alex and Kim Lam brought this lovable institution to town in 1993.
Thinking out loud, that means that if every day they sell five orders of “K8,” the menu shorthand for H? ti?u Saté, a delectable rice-noodle dish that’s surely one of Vietnam Kitchen’s top hot-and-spicy dishes, they must have stir-fried way more than 30,000 orders of it by now.
If the Lams were more boastful types, they could put out a flashing sign that boasts, “Nearly 50,000 K8′s sold!” (Yeah, I know I guesstimated 30,000, but hey, nobody fact-checks Mickey D’s “billions and billions” either, right?)
Maybe this is just my wacky imagination talking, but I’ve always thought Dragon King’s Daughter sounded like a good name for a really intense online role-playing game.
It would be a game full of samurai warrior avatars, of course, but it would have to have moustachio’d bandidos too, as DKD (as its fans abbreviate it) manages to fit both Japanese and Mexican flavors — and a lot more, too — into a single menu, and somehow it works.
I learned in grade school that America was a melting pot, a vast cultural amalgam made up of gifts from national and ethnic groups around the world, molten into sturdy steel to which every group contributed its special strength and character. I thought that was pretty cool back then, and I still do.
But upon more mature reflection, living and dining in a modern Louisville that’s far more diverse than the white-bread city where I grew up, I think maybe it’s even more accurate to describe us as a cooking pot, into which each generation of new immigrants has added appetizing ingredients to build an amazing national stew.
“Sitar.” Sounds like “guitar,” a little, and sort of acts like one, too, this oversize Indian guitar-equivalent that the Beatles loved. It’s a stringed instrument that plays eerie, sinuous music that can’t be duplicated on a keyboard because it slides into the spaces between the keys.
When you think about it, Indian food is kind of like that, too. Continue reading
How do you like your cornbread? Like Scarlett O’Hara, most Southern folk don’t give a damn for sweet cornbread. North of the Mason-Dixon, however, cornbread without a touch of sweetness seems just plain weird.
This topic came to mind the other day at Napa River Grill, where we were offered iron mini-skillets loaded with domed rounds of golden-brown cornbread topped with balls of soft butter. It was good cornbread indeed, crunchy on the surface, crumbly within, coarse-grained and sweet, sweet, sweet. You could put this on the dessert menu and call it corn cake.