Loving Louisville and Lexington
by John Mariani
New York Corner: Salinas
by John Mariani
Man About Town: Kin Shop
by Christopher Mariani
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By John Mariani
Big Brown, Three Chimneys Farm
Grill at the Brown Hotel
and Exec Chef Laurent
Giroli offer a lavish cuisine of dishes like Angus ribeye of beef au
poivre with roasted shallots and frites.
For starters there is lacquered duck with shaved celery, arugula, and
sherry vinaigrette; for entrees, roast chicken with summer
spinach mousseline, pommes fondantes
caramelized pearl onions and thyme-scented glace de volaille; and grilled
“White Marble Farms” pork chop with smoked cannellini beans,
ham, tomatoes and a lusty Pommery mustard sauce.
The signature dessert here is called the "Chocolate Striptease," made with dark chocolate cake with milk chocolate mousse with a dark chocolate ganache and coated with chocolate shavings, lavished with mixed berries and chocolate sauce, all of it then flamed with Bacardi 151 Rum.
Chef Giroli also offers both a "Classic Chef's Table" for four to eight guests and a "Theater Chef's Table" on the working side of the kitchen, for up to 16 guests and incorporates the concept of small-plate dining, complete with fines and spirits.
Open Mon.-Sat. for dinner only. Appetizers $8-$16, entrees $22-$40.
I know how you love paying $45 for a sirloin, with no potatoes, no vegetable, no nothin’ on the side, at the nationwide high-end steakhouse chains. Me, I seek out the independents when I’m on the road, places that look the way they always have, where the regulars and newcomers all get greeted and treated the same, and where, as at Pat’s Steak House in Louisville, a USDA Prime, one-pound sirloin will run you $36.25 and a 24-ounce porterhouse $39.25, along with hot rolls, plenty of butter, and a choice of two vegetables, including sautéed mushrooms, hash browns, french fries, and the most delicious, butter-splashed baby lima beans imaginable.
Pat’s also serves addictive. garlicky baby frogs’ legs, an array of icy oysters, chicken livers, country ham, meat loaf, and the crispiest, juiciest fried chicken in Kentucky. Finish off with flaky apple pie with “carmel” sauce or true strawberry shortcake, and you’ll still walk out with cash in your wallet. (Pat’s only takes cash, but there’s an ATM box right inside the front door.)
A good steak house should have the owner’s name out front, as does Pat’s, with a shamrock on the sign, the first of many Irish references, with dining rooms named Paddy’s Pub, the Dublin and the Blarney. The premises date back 150 years as a waystop along Brownsboro Road, which Mike Francis took over in 1958 to open Min’s Steak House—a name oldtimers still call it—until his son Pat took over and put his own name outside.
Pat is there every day, knows most everyone, where they like to sit, who their favorite waiter is, and what they’re drinking, which is likely to be chosen from a stash of 60 bourbons. Pat still chooses every hand-cut slab of meat served and five decades of grill men guarantee they will be impeccably seared, juicy, and beefy tasting.
Push through the front door and peer into the dark, wood-paneled downstairs dining room, which will be packed, from six o’clock on. The varnished walls are hung with softly glowing sconces and vintage horse racing posters. The tavern will be full of people waiting for a table, and you’ll first smell then see the sizzling steak platters brought by waiters for whom working here has been a lifetime career. Some years ago, most of the waiters were black, but now there’s a mix, every one expert at doling out the kind of Southern hospitality that has a fine balance of the deferential with the amiable.
is the softest,
days come oftest.” On such days and nights, I want to be at Pat’s
a small batch bourbon on the rocks, listening to the lilting cadence of
Louisvillians debating the Cardinals' chances of going all the way this
slicing into my sirloin and accepting a waiter’s offer of more lima
the way I did when I first came to Pat’s back in 1982. Of course,
father had been there a lot earlier. He was the one who told me
downstairs, wear a jacket, and bring cash.
1538 Bardstown Road, Louisville
Out on Bardstown Road, which locals like to call their “bohemian neighborhood” (I did see a tattoo parlor and one Goth couple shaking their nose rings), Seviche stands out as the most exciting restaurant in the city, and Anthony Lamas has proven himself one of the best chefs in America. The son of a Mexican mother and Puerto Rican father, he started out with an ambitious seviche-based eatery and turned it into a full-fledged Latino restaurant with Asian accents where every dish expresses both his own vivid personality and an extraordinary talent for matching flavors and textures in every dish, very carefully modulating his seasonings for maximum taste. He’ll side wild Pacific halibut seviche with green apple, ginger and yuzu, while albacore tuna comes with delicate sweet watermelon, yuzu, and a little chile flake. He takes a well-fatted Berkshire pork chop, cooks it to succulence, then combines it with green chile-manchego cheese grits, chipotle lime butter and crispy tortillas, and for dessert there’s a coconut mousse with sweet crema and wild berries. If you have time for one meal in Louisville, make it Seviche.
Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar
127 West Main Street, Louisville
There are a lot of new restaurants behind the cast-iron façade buildings along Main Street, now nicknamed Whiskey Row, and the newest is Doc Crow’s, whose food resembles what your mother might have cooked if you grew up in Kentucky—mac and cheese, cornmeal fried catfish, hushpuppies, and a salad of crisp iceberg lettuce wedge with blue cheese and house-smoked bacon. Then there’s the barbecued ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, and the turkey breast, all smoked and served up in generous portions. For dessert, the true glory of Southern sweets are revealed in Doc Crow’s pecan pie and “Wilber’s Sundae,” a delectable mess of brown butter praline ice cream with cinnamon pork rinds, candied bacon, and a bourbon cherry. God, it somehow really works.
Ghyslain Chocolate des Beaux Arts
721 East Market Street, Louisville
A French-Canadian who goes by the single name Ghyslain runs this bare little eatery that features amazingly good, very beautiful pastries and candies, but you can also drop by and eat very well, from breakfast on. At lunch, go for the croque monsieur ham-and-cheese sandwich drenched with béchamel, the French dip baguette of sirloin beef and caramelized onions, and his chicken pot pie, on a menu where nothing tops ten bucks.
Holly Hill Inn
Hill Inn is a respite, a retreat set inn the equestrian countryside and
a fine reminder of what Southern genteel really means.
Dudley’s on Short
won’t believe: Yamaguchi’s, a tiny family-run
Japanese small plates eatery in town, has no phone number listed
chef-owner Hidenori Yamaguchi, “the phone is turned off all the time to
cozy hideaway experience for our guests.” Isn’t that sweet? Well, it
hasn’t hurt business because if you and friends are up for the chef’s omekase selection of many courses and
some exceptional aged sakes, this is where you go and hope there’s a
empty. Want some very special ingredient from Japan? Yamaguchi will
make a call
on Wednesday and get it the following Friday. Happy to oblige.
NEW YORK CORNER
Adrià have tended to
obscure the more cogent expressions of young Spanish chefs who seek to
please rather than shock their guests. Of these, San
Sebastian-raised Luis Bollo is exemplary, treating Spanish culinary
traditions with respect while refining them with his own imagination.
The results first showed themselves back in 1999 at Meigas, a novel
restaurant in TriBeCa that was closed in the aftermath of 9/11. Bollo
relocated with a partner to restaurants in New Haven and Norwalk, CT,
then moved to Princeton, NJ, to open Meditera. Now that he
is back in NYC, at Salinas, he proves himself the ally and peer of the
great José Andres and Julian Serrano as Spanish masters in
is open nightly for dinner only. Tapas and starters run $7-$18,
large plates $19-$38.
This past Monday night with the company of my lovely girlfriend and a few friends I dined at Kin Shop in NYC's West Village. Being the first two in our party to arrive, we took a seat at the eight-seat bar and ordered a cocktail. I looked to my right and was pleased to see executive chef and owner Harold Dieterle standing just a few feet away inside his kitchen, examining each and every dish for approval before allowing them to hit the tables. Not only has this become a rarity in most high-profile restaurants in major cities across America but the abandonment by celebrity chefs of their kitchens is more rampant than ever. So it was encouraging to see chef Dieterle still so involved in this, the second, of his two restaurants in Manhattan. His first was Perilla (I have not dined there yet), opened in 2007, and his latest, Kin Shop, opened last October, just a few blocks from Perilla.
Dieterle is well-known for winning Season One of Bravo’s Top Chef series in 2006. I had a chance to shake hands and converse with the humble chef prior to my dinner and I was delighted to encounter a young chef who has taken his television exposure and utilized it to open a restaurant that, while open for less than a year, has already blossomed into a great addition to the booming West Village dining scene.
The dining room is medium-sized by NYC standards, seating around 45 guests and filled mostly with two-tops and the occasional table for four. There’s also a tiny counter space where a handful of guests can sit and stare directly into Kin Shop’s open kitchen. Hints of garlic, peanut butter and blasts of chili fill the air of the white brick dining room as waiters whiz by with steaming plates of braised goat and big bowls of slick egg noodles mixed with tender shreds of fried short ribs. There is a comfortable banquette that lines the wall, dark wood chairs, white ceilings and a few murals. The dining room, while simple in design is filled with an abundance of energy coming from a packed house, even on a Monday night.
For starters, Dieterle’s roasted bone marrow is one of the the best items on the menu, served with a roti and yellow bean sauce, sided by a rich, buttery, flaky pastry bread to lap up each mouthful of the generous portion of fatty bone marrow. Fried pork belly and oysters come topped with sliced celery, chopped peanuts, diced mint leaves and seasoned with a refreshing, tangy chili-lime vinaigrette. If you love high spice as I do, order the spicy duck laab salad, a mixture of ground duck meat and chili served inside crisp lettuce leaves. Make sure to order a cold Singha beer and a side of sticky rice; it is the only way you will finish the entire dish with all that heat.
waiter described the menu as family style yet recommended we order five
appetizers and five or six entrees. We were a party of six, does that
make sense to you? Granted the
portions truly reflect their price accordingly but they are definitely
not family style
portions. I think our waiter was trying to say, “share everything,”
have been correct because each dish was better than the next when
For entrees, do not miss the chef’s roasted duck breast, cooked medium rare, sliced thick with a savory layer of crispy duck fat along the outside and sided by a subtle tamarind sauce. Pickled garlic and a sweet plum chutney garnish a entire goose leg, steamed to tenderize the dark lean meat served on the bone. House specialties include a pleasant pan roasted halibut that swims in a bright Siamese green curry sauce accompanied by steamed bok choy and bamboo shoots.
The dessert menu could use some bolstering, though the Thai coffee-chocolate ice cream was very good.
Harold Dieterle is a young, innovative chef with solid culinary skills. His dishes have explosive and dynamic flavors in impressive balance. I assume with the success of his two restaurants in NYC his empire will soon expand and I hope he stays as involved in his kitchens as he currently is doing so. His first restaurant Perilla is now on my radar, stay tuned.
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IS IN THE AIR!
"It was a hot, humid, sun-flushed afternoon in Dar es Salaam, the sprawling Tanzanian port city, and there was a scene of near crisis as the train pulled in . . . a rush of porters heaving bags on to their shoulders, parting families in hysterical states of farewell. Heads and hands poked from the windows, gulping the air, grabbing at loaves of bread being sold from the platform. The scene inside was like a tenement, bodies on top of bodies, music and laughter and radio broadcasts in the tropics. We wedged ourselves into small stuffy cabins and opened the windows. The police arrived to clear the platform. With a loud groan we lurched from the station, loaves of bread still being flung towards the windows. Soon we were chugging through the city's ragged outskirts, pillars of diesel smoke barreling from the engine, the sun blotted out by our industrial-age progress into the raw heart of Tanzania."-- Christopher Vourlias, "Tanzania's 600-mile train safari offers the perfect adventure," The Observer (3 July)
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