Category Archives: Commentary

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

A dozen Valentine roses:
The city’s top romantic dining rooms

This is February’s LouisvilleHotBytes dining column in The Voice-Tribune, Louisville’s suburban weekly newspaper. We’ll publish monthly restaurant reviews and wine-tasting reports in The Voice, which is available on East End news stands and by subscription.

It’s almost St. Valentine’s Day, and you want to treat your sweetie right. You’ve got chocolates and long-stemmed roses wrapped and ready, but you know you’ll put that starry-eyed gleam in her if you escort her to dinner for two at a romantic restaurant.

To help you make your pick, I’ll tell you about some of my favorite local eateries in the wine-and-roses-and-romance category.

But first, for those of you who combine your natural romantic spirit with a practical sensibility, here’s a discreet little piece of advice. Step close, I don’t want to say this loud enough for everyone to hear:

Valentine’s Day may not be the best time to fully enjoy a fine place to dine. Like Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Derby Day, these popular holidays are the busiest days of the year in the restaurant business. Loud, demanding crowds put waitstaff and chefs under pressure and can challenge even the best-managed eatery. Savvy diners skip the holiday in favor of enjoying a quieter, less frenzied scene a day or two before or after.
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The city’s top romantic dining rooms

Gong Xi Fa Cai at Peking City

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Chinese New Year, also called “Spring Festival” in China, is under way under the light of the crescent moon; set by the lunar calendar, the Year of the Dog began Sunday with the New Moon.

Westerners usually think of Chinese New Year mostly in terms of the colorful and traditional Lion Dance celebrated in Chinese-American communities. For Chinese families, the New Year is a time of joy, when friends and families exchange gifts in envelopes colored bright red for luck, wish each other good fortune, and – getting to the point of this report – spend much of the 15-day period of celebration eating very, very well.
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What’s New Around Town – Winter ’06

Food & Dining

The Winter 2006 edition of our sibling print publication, Food & Dining Magazine Louisville Edition, is now available on news stands and local groceries and food specialty stores. (Click the cover image for more information and a great subscription offer!) Here, as a free preview, is our quarterly report on openings, closings and changes on the local restaurant scene:

Every three months, Food & Dining reviews restaurant openings, closings and other dining-industry changes in the metro area during the past quarter. This time around, like the quarter before it, saw considerable activity, with the good news that openings (including more than 30 new-business starts and about 10 additional locations for existing businesses) again significantly outnumbered the bad news of 20 restaurant closings.

As Food & Dining went to press, perhaps the loudest restaurant-news buzz of the season accompanied plans for several hot new spots that were set to launch during the early months of the new year.
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Old chop suey house goes authentic

I’m delighted to announce a new partnership between LouisvilleHotBytes and The Voice-Tribune, Louisville’s suburban weekly newspaper. We’ll publish monthly restaurant reviews and wine-tasting reports in The Voice, which is available on East End news stands and by subscription.

For many years, Westerners who craved a taste of truly authentic Chinese food have been pretty much out of luck. Even if we followed the traditional wisdom for tracking down the finest Chinese fare (“look for the places where Chinese people eat”), our round eyes and pink complexions gave us away.

Invariably, even the most impassioned request for those exotic, delicious-looking dishes we could see all around us would meet kind but firm resistance. “You won’t like that. Try this.”

But the times are a’changing as a new generation of Chinese-immigrant entrepreneurs comes into the restaurant business; and nowadays at least a few Asian eateries are willing to give diners of European heritage a peek at the Chinese-for-Chinese menu.

Here’s news that may surprise you if you haven’t been paying attention: One of the best places in Louisville to find genuine, home-style Cantonese fare the way the Cantonese like it is the Oriental House in St. Matthews.

Oriental House

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Look who’s reviewing restaurants!

Rick Pitino

U of L basketball coach Rick Pitino, whose flashy new Website,, has become a must-visit bookmark for Cardinals hoops fans, has added an unexpected feature: A series of restaurant reviews, currently featuring his thoughts on a number of Louisville steakhouses and high-end Italian eateries in New York. Now online are Rick’s comments on Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris and Pat’s steak houses, as well as reviews of the trendy Babbo, Campagnola and Bravo Gianni in New York. An earlier report on Louisville’s Porcini appears to have scrolled off the list.

His reviews are light, bright and consistently positive (“I have never had a bad meal there,” he says of Morton’s, and of Ruth’s Chris he goes on, “You’ll find it difficult to find a bad meal”). But he’s got an unerring eye for value, correctly zapping both chain steak houses’ wine lists as “extensive and overpriced.” Speaking of Morton’s, he advises, “Make sure you bring plenty of money or plastic …”
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