Louisville Magazine

MAR 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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[ Dining Out>>Review ] Working by Whim T he octopus I may never see again, but I'm definitely going back to Rye. What will I eat? No idea — and chef Tyler Morris doesn't know, either. Morris, a veteran chef of Midtown Manhattan kitchens such as Craft and the Breslin, has come to town with native Michael Trager-Kusman, grandson of the late Bernard Trager of Republic Bank. Trager-Kusman, who calls himself Rye's "pro- prietor," returns to Louisville after his passion for food took him from a job with the U.S. Department of the Treasury to a line-cook po- sition in New York. "Michael came to me (at the Breslin) look- ing for some experience, saying he was so into food he would work for free," Morris says. Realizing that Trager-Kusman was "compe- tent enough," then seeing him "excel" at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Morris started paying Trager-Kusman, then befriended him. Six months later, Morris says, "he finally told me his plan was to learn everything he could to open a restaurant as fast as possible." [106] LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.12 >>By Stephen Hacker Photos by John Nation Constraint's not an operative word at wildly creative Rye on East Market Street. Tis is Trager-Kusman's goal for Rye: "Cook and serve the best thing every day." Tat means giving Morris the freedom to change the menu whenever he wants. "It's a 'what we want to do, when we want to do it' kind of menu," Morris says. "After ser- vice, after clean-up, we sit around and read cookbooks, have kind of like a jazz session. We look in the fridge to see what's there, or sometimes we just pick an ingredient and go with it." Your chance of finding something like the eatery's coarsely named "F**k Calamari" ($12) depends on the quality of the baby oc- topus at Rye's seafood suppliers, plus whether or not somebody feels like making it again. If the cephalopods and the fates align, you might find the crazy salad of potatoes, onions, frisée and sautéed octopus on your plate, with a taste that's fresh and robust. "Tat's Mi- chael," Morris says. "He felt very passionate about that one...and he likes to have fun." Not that everything at Rye involves curs- ing. Service is genial to a fault, one waiter even graciously acknowledging my dining partner's superiority in identifying Eek-A-Mouse as the reggae artist on Rye's soundtrack on a recent visit. Later, as Jay-Z pounded us with "Em- pire State of Mind," my friend forgot about coolness to get at the last bit of house-made liverwurst on our meat plate (three for $12). I'd already demolished several slices of fat- flecked saucisson sec (a dry sausage) and gob- bled most of a lard-capped crock of creamy and silky rabbit rillettes, so I couldn't really complain. Plus, it stopped his ranting about Rastafarianism. Like many of today's restaurants, Rye re- spects whatever dining experience you're after, be it small plates, fine dining or just drinks and bar snacks. Bittners has redesigned the old Hausman Jeep administrative building on Market Street into an inviting, cosmopolitan restaurant with two sections: one dominated by a heavy wood bar under large framed pic- tures along an exposed brick wall; the other

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