Louisville is a foodie’s paradise. With so many restaurants offering nearly every type of cuisine, it’s difficult to find one you don’t like. However, for Alvin Lin, who grew up on authentic, home-cooked Taiwanese food prepared by his Taiwan-native parents, it was hard for him to find a truly authentic Asian restaurant with food that was not only satisfying, but was true to the dishes he was raised on. Born, raised and educated in Lexington, Lin often visited Louisville during his college years and ate at well-known, recommended Asian restaurants. Unfortunately, they were not to his satisfaction.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky and working in real estate for a few years, he toyed with opening up a restaurant of his own. Then he stumbled upon the perfect Bardstown Road location last year and signed a lease soon thereafter. To make this dream a reality, he needed his parents’ help; they were the ones who cooked the wonderful dishes in the first place. They agreed to move to Louisville with him to start Joy Luck. His father became the main chef and his mother, the manager.
Located in the old Kashmir restaurant, Joy Luck is small, but comfortable. It has chalkboard walls, beautiful art, a cozy lounge and a swanky bar, as well as a large outdoor patio with ambient hanging lights.
Along with its perfect location and bistro-like atmosphere, the Asian fusion restaurant opts for a more simplistic, purpose-driven menu, which is a refreshing alternative to overwhelming large menus commonly found in Asian restaurants. Lin’s well-designed, one-page menu features both authentic Taiwanese and American Chinese. The Taiwanese portion offers the exact authentic recipes Lin grew up eating, while the American Chinese portion features traditional, Americanized dishes.
Here are some of my favorites from Joy Luck’s menu:
Egg drop soup cup, $3
I never pass up egg drop soup when it is on the menu. It was delicious and offered the perfect amount of soup before a large meal. It also came with a side of those delicious, crunchy, fried wonton strips.
Honey walnut shrimp, $19
This American Chinese dish was delicious, and its presentation was perfect, with a lovely purple flower. The crispy, battered shrimp, tossed in a honey cream sauce, was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside with a sweet and salty taste. This dish also came with candied walnuts that were as flavorful and sweet-smelling as the ones you buy at Christmas. Although pricey, this dish was filling, and we had plenty to take home.
This American Chinese dish was recommended by our server and sounded too good to pass up. Presented as a fajita-type dish, the hot plate chicken was crunchy and flavorful on top of delicious vegetables sautéed in a rich sauce.
Chicken and broccoli, $13
This dish offered the option of meat choices or just vegetables, with prices varying depending on the selected meat. We opted for a large mix of chicken and broccoli in a soy sauce.
All entrées at Joy Luck come with either steamed, fried or brown rice for $1 extra; we split two medium-sized bowls of brown and fried. The rice was perfectly moist and delicious mixed into all of our dishes. Both bowls were plenty to split between five people and were certainly worth the extra $1.
The next time we visit Joy Luck, we’re going to try Lin’s recommendations from the Taiwanese side of the menu, which include:
Spicy cold-roasted beef shank, $12
- Beijing roast duck, $26
- Szechuan chicken, $13
- Short-ribs with black bean sauce, $16
- Cantonese beef rice noodles, $10 (also known as the “hamburger of China”)
- Taiwanese sausage-fried rice, $10. (This is his most raved-about dish!)
Joy Luck, with its small but comfortable bistro-like atmosphere and its deliciously satisfying Asian dishes, was everything I had hoped for and more; Lin was certainly successful in his mission to bring authentic Asian food to our big foodie city.
Joy Luck is located at 1285 Bardstown Road. Find the menu, hours and more at thejoyluck.com.