People love tapas: cuisine brought out in small portions with the intent of sharing. In Europe, tapas usually refer to Spanish cuisine, but in the U.S., the word often applies purely to the serving style, not necessarily the type of cuisine. Husband and wife team Chad and Lauren Coulter opened the tapas-inspired Louvino a year ago in the heart of the Highlands on Bardstown Road. Their goal was to have a place that was as much a destination for wine as for food. Food-wise, Louvino seeks to serve up an array of small plates firmly grounded in the use of local, fresh ingredients courtesy of Executive Chef Tavis Rockwell, (formerly executive chef of Equus and Jackâ€™s Lounge). The food is complemented by Louvinoâ€™s stellar wine program thanks to wine director Danielle Greeson-Bramblett.
â€œMy goal with the wine list was to be approachable and accessible to the average wine drinker,â€ explains Greeson-Bramblett. â€œAs much as I love wine and study about wine, most people just want to drink a good glass thatâ€™s not too expensive. They know what they enjoy; they know their preferences, but I wanted to give people the chance to try wines that they may not have tried before and step outside of their comfort zone without breaking the bank. Because of our wine station system, we have the ability to have nice bottles open, and, in my mind, because of that, we are able to offer people a high-end wine without having to commit to a whole bottle. Nice wine should not be something thatâ€™s only available to people who can afford to get a whole bottle.â€
Iâ€™ll have to go back for the wine because my mission for this visit was food.
First up was the delectably roasted Brussels sprouts salad served with sweet corn and pickled cherry peppers, garnished with micro cilantro and dressed in a cilantro and wine vinaigrette. As someone who usually sees the combination of â€œBrusselsâ€ and â€œsproutsâ€ as the embodiment of evil, the salad was a pleasant surprise. With the sprouts chopped into halves, they were able to collect a nice char, and a wholly different flavor was detectable. The vinaigrette added a zesty sharpness making the dish on the whole a hearty yet perfect summer bite.
But if Brussels sprouts are not your thing, the menu has a caprese salad thatâ€™s unlikely to disappoint anyone. While the traditional elements of the salad â€“ mozzarella, tomatoes and basil â€“ were indeed present, they were brought out with a twist. The mozzarella â€“ hand-pulled and made freshly on Louvinoâ€™s premises â€“ was topped with a basil vinaigrette, while the salad was crowned with a sizeable portion of farro, quinoa and roasted pine nuts. A drizzle of pesto added another fresh element. If you like a twist on a classic, then this salad wins out.
Those thinking that Louvinoâ€™s menu is simply light fare should think again; there are also dishes of the more indulgent variety such as the pomme frites, chunky, cooked in duck fat and served with a rich and creamy truffle aioli. Elsewhere, a perfectly cooked fillet of beef sat atop of a selection of locally sourced vegetables and was topped with a gremolata sauce, a sauce that combines elements of mint, thyme, oregano, parsley and chives along with orange and lemon. A perfect finale dish for a romantic dinner, it comes highly recommended. The meat was tender and succulent while the vegetables added levity. Heavy yes, but just right to cap off the symphony of other small dishes that preceded it.
If red meat is a little too much for you, why not give a milder flatbread a go? The vegetarian flatbread is smeared with a garlic and shallot puree, topped with fresh vegetables, such as squash, and is drizzled with a thick balsamic reduction. The dish was starchy, crunchy and filling: a great alternative to either kick off the meal or end it. But of course if seafood is more your preference, then Rockwell has some perfectly plump diver scallops to offer. Delightfully caramelized on top, the scallops are served with a moist spaghetti squash and delicate dollops of scallion pesto, both of which provided a zesty complement to the melt-in-your-mouth centerpiece of the dish.
To cap off the meal, we tried some beignets that Rockwell claims have been compared to the ones served at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. While the small fried balls are not beignets in the traditional sense â€“ Rockwellâ€™s are coated with granulated sugar as opposed to confectionerâ€™s sugar and are much smaller in size â€“ it does not mean they are any less delicious. Puffy, soft and served with a vanilla sauce thatâ€™s otherworldly, they are simply incredible, and youâ€™ll be ordering a second round in no time.
As the heart of summer approaches, Rockwellâ€™s menu will soon undergo something of a makeover. But with several classics hard to dislodge from the menu, thereâ€™s undoubtedly something for everyone at Louvino. Light, seasonal and matched perfectly with a vast array of wines selected by Greeson-Bramblett, Louvino is a must-visit this summer. VT
Louvino is situated on 1606 Bardstown Rd, Louisville. For more information call 502.365.1921 or visit louvino.com. Closed Mondays.