Classy Equus drops prices and tablecloths but keeps high style

Warm sparagus salad at Equus in The Voice-Tribune

Okay, who wants organ meat? Internal organs, that is, livers, kidneys, hearts and even more unmentionable selections.

All together now: “Eeeeuuuuwwww!”

But wait! People around the world have been enjoying organ meats for millennia, and those who shun them on the basis of the “eeuuww” factor are missing something good.

This is one of the many reasons I love dining with my wife, Mary, and our good friend Lucinda. They’re adventurous foodies, and showed it the other night when we spotted sweetbreads on the menu at Equus.

“I’m having that,” Lucinda said with a happy smile. “Can we share?” asked Mary. Me, too.

What’s a sweetbread? It isn’t bread, and it’s not a dessert. It’s a calf’s thymus gland, or perhaps a bit of his pancreas. Vegetarians please look away.

For us, it made a fine start to an exceptional dinner that cemented 24-year-old Equus’s continued stature as one of the city’s top 10 fine-dining establishments.

In a recent change of pace, owner-chef Dean Corbett has revised the menu, stored the white tablecloths, and trimmed prices to fit a recession.

Call the new menu “international bistro style.” Most main dishes are in the teens (Nana’s Swedish Meatballs is only $14), with a couple of beef and seafood dishes breaking the $20 mark. Lunch, and the short menu at Corbett’s Jack’s Lounge next door, offers another thrifty option.

Here’s a quick wrapup of our dinner selections:

The sweetbreads ($9) could not have offended the most squeamish diner, particularly one who did not know what it was. Three bite-size bits of tender, sweet, barely chewy veal were bathed in a rich, dark-brown veal reduction flavored with rosemary, mushrooms and Madeira wine.

Equus’s famous mushroom fumé soup ($5) is pure essence of mushrooms, a steaming, comforting puree of mushrooms with red wine, veal stock and heavy cream.

Washington State asparagus salad ($8, pictured above) presented crisp, flavorful asparagus spears garnished with fresh peas, slices of mushrooms, dabs of goat cheese, and pearl onions, dressed with a sweet truffle vinaigrette.

Moving on to the mains, Mary summoned Parmesan-encrusted Chilean sea bass ($24), a block of crisply fried, firm-fleshed bass atop a mound of rich mashed potatoes surrounded by lemon dill beurre blanc.

The server said the chef had “rejected” the mussels normally used in the tagliatelle seafood pasta ($18), substituting Dungeness crab. That made Lucinda’s ears perk up, and she offered two thumbs up for tender ribbon pasta with generous rations of rock shrimp and sweet crab in lemon-caper butter sauce.

Shrimp Jenkins ($18.50), filled me up with about 20 medium-size Carolina shrimp, crisply breaded and fried, tossed in a sweet sauce of brown sugar and rosemary in a blend of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and Bourbon.

Lucinda, who knows her wine, pointed us to Charles & Charles Washington State Rosé of Syrah ($32), a dry, bold pink wine that went well with everything.

We were almost too full for dessert, but succumbed to scoops of creamy, luscious ginger ice cream and praline ice cream, with three spoons. ($8)

Decaf espresso ($4) was black and bitter, not the best.

Dinner for two came up to $126.50 including the wine and tax. In my last review of Equus in 2003, the share for two was $126.09. In other words, three of us in 2009 dined for the same price as two had paid in 2003. (In both cases, careful if sometimes hovering service earned a $30 tip.) For a memorable dinner at one of Louisville’s best restaurants, I can live with that.

122 Sears Ave.