Category Archives: Pacific Rim & Other Asian

Stir-fry of broccoli, tofu and black beans over tender rice noodles.

Thai Cafe: Not Quite “Consummate,” But Fun

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.
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Lamb in a sweet potato basket at Asiatique.

Asiatique does fusion even when fusion isn’t a thing

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

Pad Thai at Thai Noodles.

Celebrate the Noble Noodle at Thai Noodles

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

Buddha's daydream at Saigon Cafe

We Meet The Buddha on The Road at Saigon Café

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

Phò gà chicken soup at NamNam Cafe. LEO photo by Frankie Steele.

NamNam’s chicken soup feeds the soul

“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!
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Thai Red Curry at Ginza.

Ginza glitters, but ultimately disappoints

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

A full plate at Clay Oven Indian. LEO photo by Frankie Steele.

Clay Oven fires up Indian goodies

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

Behold! The popular K8 in its tofu version!

Vietnam Kitchen: 50,000 K8′s Sold?

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?)
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Sushi at Dragon King’s Daughter

Pick your avatar at Dragon King’s Daughter

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.
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Bahn M

Vietnamese and American flavors meet and mingle at Four Sisters

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.
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Tandoori chicken at Sitar. LEO photo by Ron Jasin.

Sitar plays Indian music to our taste buds

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

Crispy Sea Bass at Yang Kee Noodle

Yang Kee Noodle came to town 10 years ago, and we’re glad

I wouldn’t want to say that I’m an incurable fanboy, but I can’t deny that I’ve spent more than a few long days lining up at Oxmoor Center, eagerly waiting my turn to be among the first to grab the latest and greatest iDevice from the Apple store.

And better yet, if hunger pangs strike after a few hours of inching ever so slowly forward in the quest for your iThing, you can always make a quick food run to Yang Kee Noodle, bribing your neighbors to save your spot by promising them a delivery of steaming pad thai, sizzling egg rolls or an oversize cup of hot-and-sour soup.
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