Many were surprised when Finn’s Southern Kitchen abruptly closed in January, followed by an announcement that it would reopen with a different focus. The result, Couvillion, is a unique spin on New Orleans fare, with a farm-to-table commitment and splashes of classic Southern cuisine.
And it works.
Not as blatantly Big Easy as the now extinct Roux, Couvillion (pronounced, COO-vee-ohn) instead takes the clean, modern space that was Finn’s and throws in a few touches of New Orleans-meets-voodoo décor, complete with Mardi Gras references and even some original art to go with gun-barrel blue walls.
The menu isn’t what you’d call large, but it’s varied enough that pretty much any palate is going to find something appealing, be it duck Creole, blackened whole trout, shrimp and grits, or red beans and rice. The menu also offers four salads, several tempting sides, a few appetizers and desserts such as bourbon banana pudding.
My girlfriend, Cynthia, and I made our way to Couvillion for dinner recently, and it didn’t take us long to agree on an order of Louismill smoked cornbread, even though I also was eyeballing the chicken-fried chicken livers (seems redundant, but the point is made).
Cynthia briefly considered red beans and rice and adding locally made andouille sausage — you can add sausage, Gulf shrimp or the house original “beetloaf” (a version of meatloaf made with shredded beets) to any entree — but settled on one of her favorite dishes, shrimp and grits.
For my part, I figured “when in Rome,” and opted for the dish the restaurant is named for, Catfish Couvillion.
Our server told us it would be about a 25-minute wait for the cornbread, as it is made to order, but within 12 minutes, she presented it to us in a round, cast iron pan along with a cup of whipped butter, blended with cane syrup.
“Your food just came up, too,” she said, and quickly disappeared again. What that meant was that the lightly smoky cornbread went from appetizer to a side for our meals — which actually worked out well, given both of our entrees were roux-based and begged for dipping.
As promised, our entrees arrived before I could even get my knife into the cornbread to cut it into quarters for sharing.
Cynthia’s dinner featured about eight or nine sautéed shrimp in a medium, brown roux, topped with scallions. Chopped mushrooms were cooked into the white-wine roux. In short, it was delicious.
The plump shrimp burst with peppery Cajun-style flavor, featuring plenty of garlic. The gravy and creamy grits were mouthwatering, and the mushrooms, while an unexpected addition, fit with the dish perfectly.
My Catfish Couvillion was served as a thick, red stew or roux, with four small pieces of catfish within, rice and scallions served alongside with a soup spoon for mixing. According to the restaurant’s website, couvillion is a descendant of the French dish court bouillon. Thanks to local influences, it eventually took on some Cajun personality.
Couvillion prepares its signature dish with bell peppers, celery, onions and garlic in the tomato-based sauce, adding catfish stock and letting it simmer. The catfish is then poached in the sauce for serving.
The result is a hearty and rich dish that is more filling than it looks on the plate, with a tangy, lightly spicy and almost earthy flavor.
One note about the Catfish Couvillion: The fish stock and accompanying catfish, which is skin-on, adds a lightly “fishy” flavor to the mix (hey, it’s catfish). The flavor isn’t usually prevalent, but a few bites made me take notice.
All in all, though, it was a fine choice on my part, and I learned that one of the hot sauces on the table, Dirty Dick’s Hot Sauce, made a fine companion for the thick, red roux in case you order the couvillion and want to amp up the spice.
We walked away full and satisfied. Certainly, Couvillion is a tasty addition to Louisville’s dining scene.
Also, it bears noting that a party sitting next to us had ordered two of the salads, and they were not only huge, they looked delicious. Worth noting if greens are your thing.
Couvillion also features a full bar, with happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Couvillion, located at 1318 McHenry St., is open 4 to 10 p.m., Monday and Wednesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday.