Restaurant News & Reviews

Review: Decor, sophisticated cocktails and good food make this eatery worth a visit

Crab cakes served with celery root puree and poblano peppers garnished with brown butter and togarashi pumpkin seeds at Red Light Kitchen & Lounge in Lexington.
Crab cakes served with celery root puree and poblano peppers garnished with brown butter and togarashi pumpkin seeds at Red Light Kitchen & Lounge in Lexington. aslitz@herald-leader.com

When Lucie Slone Meyers died in July 2017, just months after she opened the Red Light Kitchen & Lounge in the hip North Limestone neighborhood, diners who had followed her for decades had to wonder if they were in danger of losing their home-away-from-home dining option.

At A La Lucie and other locations (Pacific Pearl, Roy and Nadine’s, etc.) Meyers had created places where the food was interesting, the service was always welcoming and the décor fun and fascinating.

By the time of Meyers’ death the Lexington restaurant scene had grown beyond the gray-tone world of steak houses, fast food and a few ethnic options that she had burst into with color and a European flair. Would there still be a place for her approach to dining even without Lucie to orchestrate the show?

The answer is, yes.

Red Light Kitchen & Lounge is still a warm, welcoming place that feels a little bit like the living room of an eccentric, beloved relative. It is not only still operating but this month began opening for lunch as well as dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and Sunday brunch.

On a recent visit to Red Light I found it as convivial as ever. We came in without a reservation but that didn’t seem to matter much, although in the early evening the tables were beginning to fill in the dining room and the bar was showing signs of life as well.

The feel of a somewhat out-of-time place where people still have sophisticated cocktails before dinner rather than the modern glass of wine inspired me to order a classic Margarita ($8). When it eventually arrived (the service at Red Light, I thought, was always pleasant but more relaxed than brilliantly efficient) it was a delightful drink that saw me through the entire dinner, salty, sweet and tart in appropriate measures. With only two in our party, we decided to order two appetizers and share a main dish, which turned out to be more than enough food.

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Steamed pork dumplings with garlic, ginger and carrots pan fried served with kimchi and ponzu sauce at Red Light Kitchen & Lounge in Lexington. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

The pork dumplings ($9.95) came with kimchee and a tangy ponzu sauce could serve as a meal, with four fairly large wrappers stuffed with a tasty pork mixture. Two of them served as lunch the next day.

There were no leftovers from the two crab cakes ($13.95) that served as our second appetizers. There was a little debate at the table about whether they had enough recognizable crab meat in them but I found them tasty and satisfying.

At Red Light, the crab cakes are served on a rich sauce that’s got some heat to it. It took me a while to adapt but in the end I found the combination of the fairly mild crab cakes with the spicy sauce delectable.

For a main course we ordered fish and chips ($14.95). In my book, anything fried tells you a lot about a kitchen and Red Light passed that test with flying colors. The fish, battered haddock, was flaky but not dry and the batter was crispy and not at all greasy.

The French fries were thin cut and I thought they could have been a little crispier but that didn’t stop me from eating my share. A small serving of slaw with the dish was very good, creamy and a little tart. My only criticism of this dish is that I would have liked more slaw – although probably if I’d asked we would have been given more.

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The dining room Wednesday at Red Light Kitchen & Lounge in Lexington. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

I can’t leave a discussion of this restaurant without some talk about the décor. Maybe the relaxed service is intentional to give diners a chance to look around. An artist herself, Meyers was an inveterate collector and the décor reflects that.

“I’ve taken stuff that I had in storage from other restaurants that I’ve done over the years and I put it all in here,” Meyers told a reporter from the Kentucky Kernel when she opened this restaurant, which she said would be her last. “It’s all come together in its own way,” Meyers said. “It’s my story.”

It’s a story well worth telling, and a restaurant well worth visiting.

Red Light Kitchen & Lounge

780 N. Limestone

859-252-5277; redlightlex.com

Major credit cards, handicapped accessible, vegetarian options

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday Lunch: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Lounge: 4 p.m.-closing Dining room: 5 p.m. -closing Sunday Brunch 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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