Category Archives: Commentary

Robin Garr’s musings about food and restaurant matters that don’t fit neatly into the “review” category.

Food, wine star at Avalon

Eat'n'Blog
Avalon’s patio is one of the hottest spots in Louisville.
LEO Photo by Brian Bohannon

LEO’s Eat’n’Blog, April 19, 2006

By Robin Garr

Writer STEVE COOMES takes a turn in LEO’s pulpit today, choosing the chapter of Avalon from the book of Good Eats. This popular Bardstown Road bistro, he says, offers one of the most approachable dining rooms on the strip, an understated venue that lays back so the bill of fare can strut its stuff without distraction on an unadorned stage. Here’s his report:

Avalon’s split-level space bears a simple black, tan and pale-yellow color theme, straightforward tables and chairs, soft lighting and wide, uninterrupted sight lines … perfect for people-watching. The second level’s soaring ceiling is indirectly lighted, with an abstract metal sculpture adding a touch of elegance to an otherwise understated space.
Continue reading Food, wine star at Avalon

Saffron’s Buffet serves it up

Eat'n'Blog
Illustration by Gina Moeller

LEO’s Eat’n’Blog, April 12, 2006

If you’ve got a hankering for some hearty home cooking, and plenty of it, you can hardly do better than to hit the buffet at Saffron’s Buffet, where for a paltry 8 bucks you can load up on heart-warming goodies like Mom used to make. Who wouldn’t like to get on the outside of a portion of aush reshteh, for instance? Or maybe a bowl of koofteh and a little chicken tacheen with barberry rice.

What? You say your Mom never made anything remotely like that? Next I guess you’ll tell us that she wasn’t even Iranian.

But you don’t have to be Iranian to learn to love the aromatic and not-so-exotic Southwestern Asian goodies that Majid Ghavami and crew dish up at Saffron’s Buffet.
Continue reading Saffron’s Buffet serves it up

Maturing Volare’s star shines bright

Volare

Sunday seafood brunch is a Lucullan feast

When Volare popped up on Frankfort Avenue the summer before last, I gave it a warm if somewhat mixed review, placing it somewhere between the ’50s-style Italian-American vibe of Lentini’s and the more upscale Northern Italian ambience of Vincenzo’s. It lost some ratings points for unfulfilled pretentiousness and good-but-could-be-better food and service, but I marked it as a place to be watched and with room to grow.

Quite a bit has changed since then: A Chicago-based partner has moved on, the affable Majid Ghavami, popular proprietor of Saffron’s and a veteran of front-of-the-house years at the old Casa Grisanti and Vincenzo’s, has moved in as a partner and maitre d’, and Chef Dallas McGarrity (hey, at least there’s a vowel on the end of his name) has grown from good to better with a little experience under his toque.

Volare just recently added an expansive, seafood-rich Sunday brunch to its offerings, and an indulgent sampling today left me persuaded that this place is now offering Mr. Ghavami’s former employer, the other Big V, a serious run for its money as the city’s top Italian table.
Continue reading Maturing Volare’s star shines bright

Danielle’s is sweet in more ways than one

Danielle's

There’s a lot to like about Danielle’s, one of a cluster of hot new spots that’s opened around town this month. Sweet! I’d like it even better, though, if only “sweet” wasn’t an adequate one-word description for just about everything on the bill of fare. More about that anon.

Danielle’s Chef Allan Rosenberg is young, but he’s on a fast trajectory. Trained in New York under iconic chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud, he served as chef de cuisine under one of Louisville’s top chefs, Anoosh Shariat, at Park Place on Main. Now he’s opened his own establishment, and it’s looking good.

Danielle’s fits in to the Frankfort Avenue scene with a genteel, upscale casual vibe, tasteful burgundy and cream walls and discreet modern art, that reflects more of a Baby Boomer sensibility than the chef’s 20-something status. Continue reading Danielle’s is sweet in more ways than one

Proof proves out

Proof on Main

First, a rant: I’ve always thought there’s something kind of needy and pathetic about the way that Louisville looks to New York to validate the things we do here. Bring in a speaker from the Big Apple to make your fund-raiser a success; punch your chef’s ticket by jetting off to Gotham to cook dinner at Beard House. Get a review in The New Yorker or a mention in The New York Times, or choose a New York architect for your landmark building … if it doesn’t earn a New York stamp of approval, we seem to think, it must not be worth much.

So naturally it comes as no surprise that the strong New York connections of the city’s hottest new item – Proof on Main – have dominated the early buzz and almost fawning media coverage about this stylish new spot on West Main Street, our neighborhood that’s often, and accurately, compared with New York’s SoHo for its impressive collection of historic cast-iron storefronts.

For the record, yes, we know Proof on Main is managed by a prominent New York restaurant firm, Drew Nieporent’s Myriad Group, the folks who operate such culinary Manhattan landmarks as Tribeca Grill, Nobu and Montrachet.
Continue reading Proof proves out

Diamante’s a diamond, but not rough

Diamante

One bold statement may be made about Diamante Bar & Grill without serious fear of contradiction: It is surely the city’s best restaurant located in a former gasoline station.

But we don’t need to cut our definition so fine in order to praise this amiable establishment. Yes, it really is built around the original beige-tile facade of the 1920s-era Diamond Gulf Station, and once you know that, you can easily see how the big open squares that give access to the cozy bar might once have been fitted with overhead garage doors. Suddenly you wonder if a sputtering 1937 Maxwell might pull up next to your table with a happy yell, “Fill ‘er up!”

The casual, arty and urban mood of this Bardstown Road favorite is only the starting point. It’s not at all stuffy, but clearly a step – or several – up from your basic city saloon … Continue reading Diamante’s a diamond, but not rough