It’s not often I sit down in a restaurant and have an entire menu to pore over. I stopped eating meat other than fish about eight years ago and have spent the time since studying restaurant menus searching for a pasta or salad I can order without the chicken. A waitress once commented most unhelpfully, “That’s an awful expensive salad if you don’t get the meat!”
Most of the time I feel like a second rate citizen in restaurants that don’t call themselves vegetarian – but I don’t want to eat only at vegetarian restaurants. I just want good ingredients, artfully prepared in a dish that just happens to not be meat based.
How happy was I then, to recently discover that Z’s Fusion, newly opened downtown, offers an entire menu dedicated solely to meat-free dishes. Just ask for it. In this posh and inviting restaurant, vegetarians are warmly welcomed. It doesn’t hurt that chef Dallas McGarity’s girlfriend is among the vegetarian crowd, but that’s not the only reason for the expanded veggie options.
“I offer the vegetarian menu because I don't feel like there are enough upscale vegetarian options in the Louisville dining scene. I have noticed this because of [my girlfriend]. When we go to a restaurant, there aren't that many choices for her … usually vegetarians get stuck with a pasta or something very uncreative. I don't want vegetarians to feel like we are just ‘throwing something together for them.’ My type of cuisine lends itself to a vegetarian's palate because of all the different ingredients that we use.” Dallas says.
Dallas brings to Z’s a background in southern cooking, Italian cuisine, work in England and a passion for Eastern foods. The result is a most delicious mash-up. I dug the Pineapple Barbeque Glazed Sesame Portabellas ($17.95) at dinner so much that I begged the barbecue recipe (below, modified for those of us not cooking for a crowd). And the Panko Crusted Vegetables and Chips ($9.95) I tried recently at lunch could make me forget all about my once-a-week limit on fried food. The eggplant, portabellas and asparagus boasted an ethereally light sesame-coated crunch elevated to rapturous levels with a plunge in the wasabi aoli.
I still have nearly a dozen other dishes to try, so I’ll be in for my third visit to Z’s soon. In the meantime, I can get my fix with this barbecue recipe slathered on roasted vegetables:
Z’s Fusion Korean Barbecue Glaze
4 cloves garlic minced
1 apple, peeled and sliced
½ cup pineapple, diced
1 pear - peeled, cored, and minced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cups soy sauce
¼ cups white sugar
2 T light brown sugar
2 T sesame oil
2 T rice wine vinegar
2 T sesame seeds
2 t minced fresh ginger
½ t freshly ground black pepper
½ t crushed red pepper
4 oz Hoisin sauce
Load everything into a food processor and give it a whirl.
115 S 4th St