“It’s about the guests,” mused the good-natured Executive Chef Charlie Reed as he fiddled with a small piece of paper, methodically turning it over and over in his well-worn hands. Henry’s Place is new, but the intimate ambience and impeccable service allow guests to feel right at home. Setting a tone of supreme comfort and excellence, their first American Brigade Wine Dinner last night began with an intoxicating strip of lightly-scored garlic bread and a small bowl of gorgonzola-wine sauce that I unabashedly would like to be alone in a secluded and dark place with. It was warm with a swoon-worthy viscosity and a magnificent depth of flavor that enveloped my senses with bright punches of citrus, wine, creamy gorgonzola, mushroom, and garlic.
The 1st course, roasted lemon quail perched amidst a pool of rich, velvety natural jus, was perfectly cooked with a bright and complex filling. A delicate quail egg resting on a gold coin beside it was a triumphant sunburst of flavor – clean, smooth, and impossibly delicious. The Franciscan Chardonnay, my favorite of the evening, was rich and alive with notes of butterscotch, pear, apple, citrus, and honey, rounding out the flavors of the dish impeccably.
The 2nd course, a consommé with a chicken-fennel mousse, smelled like Thanksgiving. In a very, very good way. I spent my first minute or so with it simply closing my eyes and inhaling the comforting wafts that curled upwards and embraced my nose. The mousse was a cloud, enveloping a tender thyme- and lemon-laced meatball. A Parisian potato offered a nice variation in texture, while ribbons of shaved fennel danced around my spoon, casting a veil over the delicate slice of smoked duck hiding at the bottom of the bowl. The wine, a Sauvignon Blanc, was dry and slightly bitter with an intense acidity that made the overall flavor tart. It paired perfectly with the dish.
The 3rd course, a Honey-Blueberry sorbet to cleanse the palate, was brightly-flavored and served at the perfect temperature – not too cold, but cold enough that it balanced out the warm consommé we had just eaten. I tasted more citrus than blueberry, but it was appropriately tart and sweet.
The 4th course was my favorite. A Morbier pear potato was gorgeous and impressive with a smooth, rich, and impossibly light interior. Sweet, crunchy caramelized squash waited to be devoured inside of a freshly-hollowed roma tomato. Veal stuffed with king crab was superb, and the luscious veal glace was dark, rich and complex. It tied everything on the plate together, striking a perfect balance with each component. The Cabernet Sauvignon had less body than the previous wines, and it smelled sweet, but had a sharp, slightly bitter taste that worked well with the veal farce.
The 5th course, a Malabar salad, was a general favorite among the diners. It was clean, crisp, and balanced. The peking duck pate was like butter, the Fol Epi cheese underneath made the dish divine, and the roasted shallot vinaigrette… Purrrr. The Pinot Noir was incredible - alone, it managed a lovely balance of acidity, sweetness, and bitterness, but with the salad, it was simply stunning.
Dessert was a work of art. Flowers of piped chocolate, the petals filled with brightly-colored gels, bloomed across the plate from a gorgeous (and HUGE) slice of key lime charlotte with a layer of slightly bitter spiced chocolate mousse that formed a gingerbread flavor with the crust. A pool of luscious sauce sat to the side with a bonbon that proved a very elegant version of cookies and cream, impossibly smooth inside once the crisp shell cracked with the slightest pressure of my tongue. Chef Charlie even hand-crafted tiny marzipan mice with sugary, striped tails that sat atop the charlottes. Almost too cute to eat. Almost. The accompanying Moscato was smooth with a bright acidity and a subtle effervescence that helped to cut the richness of the dish, and in turn, the dessert lessened the sweetness of the wine, producing a balanced and distinct pop of orange flavor.
The representative from Southern Wine & Spirits of Kentucky, Joey Aarvig, was friendly and knowledgeable, and my server, Rebecca, was prompt, sweet, and attentive.
As a chef, I have to comment on the fact that the kitchen not only put out a separate 6-course wine dinner flawlessly, but did so without a single hiccup during regular service for a completely full restaurant. Bravo.
Every dish was delicious, nicely-portioned, elaborate, and well-seasoned. The amount of thought that went into the dinner is astounding, and I am truly impressed. Henry’s Place is the epitome of Louisville fine dining – elegant with great service, friendly faces, delicious food, and an atmosphere that encourages relaxation. They take a distinct pride in employing a very experienced staff of people who care about the quality of your dining experience. I felt completely taken care of and I ate an unforgettable meal. It truly is all about the guests, and I will certainly return.