Le Moo should be… Le Mushroom

Here is a little secret about being vegetarian: We love steakhouses.

For the hardcore veggies and vegans, the displays of former animals might be too much. But if you can ignore both the carnage and the wafting smells of cow muscle on the grill, the vegetables, salads and random veggie specialty may be worth traversing the moral gray area

One of my favorite steakhouses is Le Moo on Lexington Road. My carnivore family loves the food, and it has a potpourri of sides and dishes that I regularly crave. On this particular evening, I was coming off a 40-day fasting diet. We decided to splurge a little. Being a larger guy, when I walk into a steakhouse, the manager always looks at me like I am going to take on whatever gigantic steak-eating challenge for which they might be famous. It is always funny to see the stream of vegetables come out with the servers checking the seating on the order seven or eight times.

Even though Le Moo is not in my eat-there-weekly price range for dinner, I like taking out-of-towners to this unique, Louisville eatery. With its metal, bovine sculpture at the front door, ambient lighting, eclectic décor, drag brunch on Sundays and cow balloons marking a customer’s birthday, Le Moo has the comfortable feel, high-end food and the right amount of kitsch to be cool… but without trying too hard.

On to the meal…

Cocktail starters: The fast I just completed was also alcohol-free which is a euphemism for hell. I decided to use some of the extra room I made on my liver for a proper bourbon. Le Moo has a reasonable pour of Michter’s bourbon at $10. Mmmmmm, bourbon.

Appetizers: Le Moo offers great appetizers including an homage to the previous tenant of the building, KT’s — the spinach artichoke dip ($12). I went with a house salad ($8) and dressing on the side. For some reason, I find that great steakhouses have incredibly crisp, fresh veggies. My salad had a brightness and crunch that lets a patron know the salad has the goods.

The wine: My wife was having the fish (we have a split-vegetarian household), so we ordered a bottle of Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc ($35). This wine would get lost with a steak, but pops with my veggie fair as well as Hope’s fish carcass.

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The main course: Le Moo has one of the best vegetarian dishes in town, a vegan cassoulet ($17). To make it gluten-free, I order it without the crust. It is a piping-hot, cast iron skillet of white beans topped with oven-roasted tomatoes and haricots verts on top. I came hungry, so I also had a side of the sautéed five mushroom medley ($9) and a side of sautéed asparagus ($6). It was honestly a little too much food… but I put my back into it.

Hope’s pick: For the fish eaters out there, she recommends the pan-seared Texas red fish (made without the bacon and sub asparagus for mashed potatoes) ($29).

One note about the mushrooms: I love mushrooms by themselves, as an ingredient, in a soup, stuffed and as a stuffing, etc. Le Moo’s side is a favorite. The medley is heavy on the oyster and cremini mushrooms but has classics including portobello, white and shiitake.

We opted to forgo dessert and imbibed the rest of our wine to round out the evening. The check comes in an old romance novel, so our night ended with me flipping through Joan Johnston’s “Blackthorne’s Bride” and doing a dramatic reading of excerpts. This is why reasonably priced Michter’s is a problem.

Happy Hour: $1 mimosas daily at brunch.

Veggie Brunch Pick: a veggie omelette —six eggs, broccoli, onion, yellow squash, five-mushroom medley, fromage blanc and chive crème ($11).

Gluten-free options: an array of sides, salads seafood and entrées are available.

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