Restaurant: The Grape Leaf, Louisville, Kentucky
It’s not my birthday…but my roommate and I have a tradition to treat each other to a birthday meal someplace new, interesting, or a personal favorite for each others special day. Mine was pushed back to this weekend as my birthday fell on the start of the weekend and I already had Indian food on the mind at my favorite place in Louisville!
So, I had said that what I really wanted was…finally…some Chinese food. We had read a review a couple years ago about a place called the Tea Station in Louisville that had gluten-free options. However, after e-mailing them and not hearing anything back…then the roomie calling and basically being told they can give me rice and vegetables and tofu…and after seeing reviews about how the place has sort of been on a downward spiral…it was time for a second option.
The problem was…I really wanted Chinese food. So, now, nothing sounded like something I wanted.
I tried to get some feedback from Cathy, but she kept saying it was my choice. Which only stressed me out. I narrowed it down to a couple of places…and after scanning the menu pages a few times, I settled…on The Grape Leaf.
Yep. Mediterranean food! I love everything about Mediterranean food…so I figured…why not try out somewhere new and different and interesting? So…after work, we drove out to Frankfort Avenue…and attempted to find parking. We finally managed to find a spot well up the road and made a bit of a hike to the restaurant itself. The Grape Leaf prides itself on being a friendly, locally owned, pan-mediterranean neighborhood restaurant. I loved everything about that statement, so I was pretty excited about it. Not to mention, their chef, Nabil Al-Saba, is the real deal – serving up authentic cuisine since 1992.
We stepped into the restaurant and were greeted by the hostess. We were taken to our table and seated. One of the chairs had a balled up cloth napkin on it, but it was near the window and I was sitting in the seat nearest the aisle. So, I set my purse down in the chair, away from the napkin, and settled in to look at the menu. The hostess/waitress asked if we wanted any appetizers like hummus or grape leaves, but Cathy said this was our first time there so we were going to familiarize ourselves with the menu first. So, she went to retrieve glasses of water while we perused the menu.
When she returned, she asked if we had any questions or if we were ready to order. We had done a bit of discussion while sitting there…but finally settled on what we were going to eat. Cathy went first, as she had the easier order. She went with the Lamb Schwarma with her two sides being the Lentil Soup with Pita and the Cauliflower Rice ($13.25).
I was going with a couple of items on the Appetizer list. I settled on a cup of the Organic Vegan Red Lentil Soup ($4.00) and the Vegetarian Grape Leaves ($7.50). Order was in.
And just moments later, our appetizer soups arrived. I had to take a picture for the blog, but Cathy dove in and said…”It tastes citrus-y.” That made me giggle and once my photo was taken, I spooned up a bit myself and tasted it. I didn’t get citrus at all, but I did get this smokey-sweet flavor from the paprika that was sprinkled on top. The menu lists the ingredients of this sup as being organic red lentils, extra virgin olive oil, onion, and spices. What it was was this thick and rich soup that had a gentle, tame flavor that was elevated by the dashes of paprika over the top. It was warm and soothing and smooth. And it was a good way to start the meal, for sure.
In fact, we had just polished off our cups of soup when the entrées arrived at the table. Wow. Fast.
The grape leaves looked like…grape leaves. I mean, you can’t really dress those up, can you? Except with spices…like that same sprinkling of paprika…everywhere. I mean…everywhere. I had six stuffed grape leaves on the plate with a dollop of tzatziki and lettuce in the middle. The grape leaves themselves were wrapped around a blend of tomato, parsley, onion, Egyptian rice, and herbs. I cut into one of them. They looked really great. I dipped my fork in the tzatziki and added it to the bite…and gave it a try.
It was…pretty good. It was okay. The textures were great. The grape leaves were cooked perfectly, kept soft. The stuffing was creamy and had a bit of flavor. Not a lot though. In fact, the star of the entire dish was the tzatziki. So, thank goodness for that. I had Cathy try a bite and she liked the creamy inside…but just didn’t look like she was a fan at all. And, sadly, being a schwarma lover…she was most impressed with her side of Cauliflower Rice. I was also…really…really…concerned with how quickly the food came to the table. I watch Kitchen Nightmares…I know how this works…
The food was just…okay. Not meh. Not gross. But not something I would actively make a point to go back and try again. Which…is so sad. This was my birthday meal and it didn’t live up to expectations. I feel cheated. I feel like my going out on a limb…trying something different…was a letdown. Do I get a do-over? We left after paying the bill and decided we couldn’t end the night with food that we weren’t happy with…so we hiked just up the street to The Comfy Cow for kiddie scoops of their Strawberry Fields Forever ice cream.
So…The Grape Leaf…has an amazing reputation…but it wasn’t busy when we were there…nor was the food anything to scream from the rooftops about. It was just…eh…good.
And I was hoping for great. I was expecting great.
I don’t think I’ll be back.