I have a bucket list of restaurants at which I want to eat before I die. The list gets longer every year and I have started making trips to certain cities based on food. While I haven't made it out to the French Laundry just yet, I've been hitting a good chunk of my southern favorites. When my sweet friend Lauren asked me to go to Louisville with her to celebrate her birthday and left dinner reservations up to me (what a good friend!) I knew exactly where I wanted to go.
Enter 610 Magnolia. I'm a pretty big Top Chef fan and I like to try to eat at the restaurants of some of my favorite contestants. During Top Chef Texas I was a big Edward Lee fan. Even though he didn't win (robbed I tell you!) he was my favorite of the season and thus, his small restaurant in Louisville ended up on my must-eat list.
610 Magnolia is not your normal dining experience. For starters, they are only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The place is teeny-tiny and reservations are hard to come by. When I called to make a reservation I was told they were totally booked-up. I asked to be put on a waiting list and pretty much decided it wasn't going to happen. Two days later I got a phone call and we were in for a 6pm slot! The food gods were smiling down upon me... or so we thought, until we were on the way and discovered the highway between Nashville and Louisville was totally closed due to a major accident. We were able to figure out a back road route, but we knew we would be way too late for our reservation. I think I left the saddest voicemail in history on 610's answering machine: "We are coming from Nashville! Highway is closed! It's my friends birthday! PLEASE?!" I was elated when they called me back and agreed to hold the table for us until 7:30. The customer service at this place is top-notch! But what else would you expect from a Top Chef? And to add to the "BOOYAH" factor, they gave us complimentary glasses of champagne to toast Lauren's birthday!
After our complimentary champagne courtesy of our kick-ass waiter Chad (PS: love you Chad) we decided to order some cocktails. Since we were in bourbon country I opted for an old fashioned. It was really good and not overly sweet. Plus there was a nice fat cherry waiting for me at the bottom. Steve had their version of a Singapore Sling and it was light and refreshing.
The menu at 610 works like this: you pick a 3 course or a 4 course dinner, and you select from a list for each course. Those are your only options. Because I am an A+ eater I opted for the 4 course meal. Actually, both Laurens did 4-course and our man friends did 3. LADY POWER. The first thing brought to us was an amuse trio. On the left is whipped celery and mashed potatoes with a crisp potato chip- their take on chips and dip. The center was a mixture of clams and greens with a dried ham chip. HAM CHIP is my new favorite phrase and term of endearment. On the right was their version of a BLT, but honestly all I could taste was the porky goodness from the minced pork belly in the center.
For my first course I went for the raw tuna with lardo. Lardo is a fancy word for fat. So basically this dish was raw fish, pig fat, bacon dust and a chestnut veloute. This makes me want to go to a sushi place, order a roll, and then pull raw bacon out of my purse and slap it on top.
Steve chose the king crab dish for his first course. The chefs at 610 love to make things into jellies. The crab here sat on top of a coconut-banana custard square. (The soy sauce in my tuna dish was actually tiny dots of soy jelly). This dish was tasty, but I loved the presentation. I want to eat it with my eyes forever!
For our second course we both ordered the beef carpaccio. I love a good dose of raw meat but 610 upped the ante by adding shaved foie gras on top. So this is basically raw beef with duck liver on top. It was absolute heaven.
For my main dish I ordered the duck because I am horribly predictable. It was a fatty duck breast and duck leg confit served in a cranberry-bourbon jus. Look how pink the center of the duck is! That is how duck is supposed to be cooked. Just like steak, I like my duck pink in the middle. This particular duck was gamey and had a nice layer of fat. It was pretty much heaven on a plate. I'm really happy I stuck to my standard order!
Steve ordered the Scottish Salmon (line-caught!) in a brown butter-pistachio puree. The salmon was good, but my favorite part of this dish was the tiny fingerling potato rounds under the salmon that were mingling with some good old meyer lemons.
Ah, the dessert course. My perennial favorite way to end such a fabulously filling meal. Ordering dessert is such a splurge for me, but I expected greatness from 610 and they delivered. I ordered the chocolate mousse (that brown circle in the center). Because the 610 chefs love jelly, it was served with a white chocolate ganache gel (those tiny white squares). My favorite part of the plate was the little scoop of earl gray ice cream. When I used to live in Boston my favorite snack was the early gray ice cream from Toscanini's. I haven't been able to find a place that makes it since. So tons of good college memories came flooding back to me with one bite of 610's version.
This dinner was a big splurge and not light on my wallet, but it was absolutely worth it. The staff was incredibly helpful and accommodating and our waiter (love you Chad!) was one of the best servers I have ever met. And I think it goes without saying again, the food is top-notch first-rate fantastic. This is the kind of place you take a lady the night you plan on proposing (guys- take notes).
BONUS PHOTO: The Laurens get all cavewoman on some boar chop bones.