- 983 Goss Ave., Louisville, KY, 40217
- Overall User Rating:
- (2 ratings)
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Hardwood floors, exposed bricks, dim lighting, a long, friendly bar, tables built from thick slabs of reclaimed lumber, and a soundtrack that veers from alt-rock to Sam Cooke.
It's pretty clear that Heather Burks and James Gunnoe, who own the extremely popular Germantown tavern Nachbar, had a crystal clear vision of the ambiance they wanted to create with Eiderdown, their new restaurant that opened its doors a month or so ago in the space previously occupied by Jockamo's.
Stepping into the long, compact dining room feels like stepping into a sturdy European pub that's been trapped in time for over a century. And at its best, the menu, created by executive chef Brian Morgan, offers hearty peasant comforts that would certainly have made the place a favorite of London coachmen before the turn of the last century.
Some items are just plain fun. The ephemeral lightness of duck fat popcorn ($4) is barely weighted down by needle-sharp grains of salt that tickle the tongue and whet the thirst, creating one of the finest bar snacks I've come across in a long, long time.
One night a bowl of the daily soup ($4) was the essence of peasant: a deeply flavored beefy broth filled with chunks of potato and sweetly caramelized slices of onion; imagine an excellent French onion soup sans the customary crouton and slab of melted cheese, and you've captured the essence (a rotating assortment of soups and stews are daily lures on cold days).
Early on, Eiderdown was so overrun by customers that at times the kitchen and servers couldn't keep pace. Those problems have resolved themselves in the intervening weeks, and yet there are still some dishes that fall disappointingly short of the high standard the kitchen sometimes sets.
An appetizer called “chopped liver” for instance, is accurately enough described on the menu: It consists of six big deep-fried globes of blended chicken liver and pork in a beer batter. A promising concept, but on the table it doesn't quite work. The innards have the coarsely ground look and feel of sausage. There's nothing of the buttery, schmaltzy texture of classic chopped liver in this dish — nor, alas, does the filling compensate with spicy sausage-like flavors. And a gummy, tasteless scoop of mincemeat jam added nothing to the proceedings ($6.50).
Chef Morgan's interest in hybrid meat dishes also shows up in the Nachburger ($9.50), made from grass-fed beef and bacon. Again, it's a good solution to the problem posed by lean, grass-fed beef, but the salt and smoke of the bacon never really surface.
Another sausage-based dish — the Currywurst ($8) — has enormous potential. An excellent course-ground knockwurst is cut into slices, and would be excellent but for a sweetly unpleasant curry-inflected ketchup.
If the kitchen has a fault, it comes down to inconsistency. Some dishes are quite fine: The Sunday Sitdown ($15) brings a prettily roasted quarter of juicy chicken surrounded by golden, crisp skin; a smear of grits, a scoop of tart turnip greens and a generous dose of pan juice make for a sensuous meal.
And if you're seeking true peasant comfort, Homer's Daydream ($16) is an indulgent dish that would sustain a farmhand in the middle of harvest time. A generous portion of locally raised pork ribs (from Fiedler Farms) is slow cooked until the flesh falls from the bones, then surrounded by mellow sauerkraut, cooked apples and a garnish of thinly sliced green apples.
And when trying to satisfy your sweet tooth, it's a good idea to see what's on offer; one night a splendid chocolate pot de crème made for a grand closing course.