- 1765 Mellwood Ave., Louisville, KY, 40206
- (502) 618-1745
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
- Monday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 4-11 p.m.
- Official Web Site:
Instead, we got a thicket of cress with thick, awkwardly long stems; large, pale chunks of soft, fatty bacon; and all the other ingredients — doused in an innocuous dressing.
It was a startling dish, and one I wouldn’t have served company at home. And it gave me the heebie-jeebies about the dishes to come — especially since we were celebrating a young companion’s newly minted bachelor’s degree. Happily, though, that salad was pretty much the low point in a meal that kept getting better and better as it went along.
Bistro 1860 benefits from a great location and a veteran team of owners and managers. The building — formerly home to L&N Wine Bar and Bistro — is a graciously sprawling house with a beautiful patio that surrounds diners in a comforting web of greenery and herbs. The owners include Ron Kayrouz (a surname familiar to generations of Louisville diners) and Terry L. Fereday.
The beverage program is run by sommelier David Russell, and the cocktail list (just now well-populated with refreshing summer drinks like the Chi Chi Rodriguez, a perky tequila-based cocktail with orange and lemon notes). The beer list includes craft and local options, and though the wine list is pricey (with bottles starting in the mid-$30s and heading upwards), there are plenty of by-the-glass options, and the list is well-selected.
Heading up the kitchen is Michael Crouch (formerly of Bourbons Bistro), with sous chef Matthew Kelley. The Bistro 1860 concept is to offer menu items in two or three different portion sizes, from 3-ounce tastes to full-blown entrees.
It’s an elegantly simple idea, and one that reflects the varied ways we eat today. If you want to feast on a full plate of fork-tender pork belly braised in a robust black sauce of Guinness and sorghum, plated with a creamy pudding made of sweet corn and chevre, you can go for it ($21). If you’d rather nibble on a small portion of the same dish, it’ll set you back $6. And if you want just enough to share with a couple of friends, buy the middle-sized portion ($12). You might call it the Goldilocks Principle — and every diner gets to decide which portion is “just right” for him or her.
Our group tasted nine of the 16 dishes on the menu (not counting specials) — and apart from the salad (and a lobster hush puppy, $5/$10/$15, that was overcooked, but still tasty thanks to a lemony hollandaise, notes of orange and a brilliant dash of candied jalapeno), every dish was very fine.
A flaky strudel pastry was filled with duck confit, caramelized onion and Capriole goat cheese, and touched up with a creamy sauce made with shallots and cherry ($7/$14/$21). A sharp-edged sauce made with poblano peppers and tomatillos spiced up some pork tacos, and as with many of Crouch’s dishes, interesting fillips were added by dabs of this and that — in this case, mango relish and lime crema.
A pan-seared crab cake was moist, meaty and colorfully decked out with pomegranate gelee ($6/$12/$18). And a chunk of salmon wrapped in layers of potato was intricately engineered with sauteed spinach, golden raisins and a bright touch of orange chervil cream ($7/$14/$21).
But two dishes — the previously mentioned pork belly, with its commanding black blanket of Guinness and sorghum, and a flan ($5/$12) made from porcini mushrooms with Benton’s bacon brittle, plump green English peas and champagne vinaigrette — topped the charts.
Well, at least until we got to dessert. On the advice of our server — who gave good advice and service throughout the meal — we moved upstairs to Bistro 1860’s “Camel Lounge,” a cozy second-floor cluster of soft seating (with plenty of artifacts reflecting the camel motif and an exhibit of pieces by local artist Dru Pilmer) that seems destined to become one of the city’s favorite lounges for an after-dinner drink or coffee.
Strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar are one of those simple classic combinations that can hardly be improved upon — but Crouch and company found a way. They turned it into a sublime ice cream with great color and flavor. And their bourbon-glazed bread pudding ranks with the best in the city.
You can email freelance restaurant critic Marty Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.