Choices on the Village Anchor’s menu are given some strange twists [Food and dining]

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This article appeared in the October 2010 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

You’d expect the founder of a successful national public relations and branding firm to make a bold statement with his first restaurant, and indeed, Kevin Grangier does just that with the Village Anchor, which opened earlier this year in the Anchorage Village Center. Heavy red velvet, garish wallpaper, dark wood, brass and gilt-edged paintings fastened to the ceilings adorn the dining room, a decor Grangier told me was “meant to look like a French bordello.”

Part of a 200-seat complex orchestrated by Grangier, the founder and CEO of CarryOn Communications, the split-level establishment also includes a wrought-iron lanai, two additional outdoor seating areas and the separate Sea Hag pub. The entire place is enough to, as Grangier said, “make your head spin around.”

Unfortunately, the menu also made my head spin. It may have been redesigned by this publication date (although when I spoke with him after my recent visits, Grangier said only that, “We plan to add a few more beef, chicken and seafood dishes”). To me, the menu was a confusing jumble of offerings arranged, according to the owner, “the way food was introduced to the restaurant.” A dessert choice of carrot cake was positioned next to fried goat cheese salad, while banana pudding appeared several items down, underneath apricot Bourbon pork.

Grangier described his menu, developed in tandem with executive chef Geoff Heyde, as “very eclectic . . . what I call ‘upscale comfort food’ or ‘comfort food with a twist.’” He said his menu inspirations range from his mother’s Sellersburg, Ind., kitchen to fare from bed-and-breakfasts in Sydney, Australia.

Whatever their source, I found many of my Village Anchor choices to be disconcertingly sweet. The fried goat cheese salad ($12) had fresh greens and a nice mix of sweet candied nuts and tart cranberries along with crusty rounds of Capriole goat cheese, but an overly sugary pear champagne vinaigrette upset the balance. Sometimes the restaurant’s sweet tooth works better. While I have never been a big fan of holiday sweet-potato casserole, a dining companion’s rapturous enjoyment made me appreciate how a side of marshmallow crème turned the restaurant’s crusty, crisp sweet potato fries ($6) into a novel twist on the classic dish. I also enjoyed the sweetness of the Village Anchor’s candied bacon (braised in both honey and brown sugar, then baked) in a “B,L,T & A” ($13). I thought adding avocado to the traditional lettuce and tomato tamed the sugar into a pleasant addition.

Grangier’s inspiration also brings candied bacon to a very tasty Kevin’s Anchor meatloaf burger ($13). The bacon, Cheddar and sautéed onions topped a grill-crusted yet moist and flavorful chunk of meatloaf — another Middle American classic successfully brought upscale by the Village Anchor. I was much less impressed, however, with the pricey sea bass ($34). The fish, while cooked well, seemed to lack any flavor other than lightly salted butter, despite its crab and pistachio crust. Deviled Eggs Three Ways ($7) also lacked flavor each “way” (goat cheese and tomato, mushroom, and, again, candied bacon), arriving too cold and tasting only slightly of hard-cooked egg.

Staying on the Sellersburg side of the Village Anchor menu wasn’t always a safe bet, either. Myra’s fried chicken ($15) claims to be “mom’s recipe,” but perhaps the kitchen was having an off day with Mrs. Grangier’s recipe, because the breading was leathery and underseasoned. By contrast, I found the fried bologna sandwich ($9) a fascinating reproduction of a childhood memory, right down to the processed flavor of the melted cheese.

Mother Grangier’s culinary skills were much better represented by banana pudding ($8), a surprisingly not-too-sweet, warm rendition with chunks of banana under a light and springy baked-to-order meringue. On another occasion, I indulged in a wedge of carrot cake ($8), which comes with a piece of cheesecake stuffed inside. I enjoyed the cream cheese filling inside my moist carrot cake, but found the additional crust to be a little overmuch.

Grangier told me he did a lot of research before he launched the Village Anchor. “I wanted to respond to a hole in the market, as I would for any brand I wanted to develop,” he said. But it seems to me that the Village Anchor “brand” is a bit more style than substance. While there seems to be a competent hand in the kitchen, the flavor profiles don’t live up the price tags. But at least I know where I can get a meatloaf burger the next time I’m near Anchorage.

If you go

The Village Anchor, 11507 Park Road, Anchorage, 502-708-1850. Open for lunch Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m., and Friday-Saturday, 5-11 p.m. villageanchor.com

Photo: John Nation