I have to say, I was very sorry to see Palermo Viejo shut its doors in February of 2015. Having traveled to Argentina, this restaurant always held a special place in my heart, as it allowed me to wax nostalgic about our time traipsing through Buenos Aires, sampling various grilled meats from the traditional parrillas throughout the city. Given the premium location just past Midland Avenue on Bardstown Road, there was little doubt that this established dining room would not sit empty for long. Sure enough, a mere nine months later, La Chasse was prepared to greet its first customers. Billed as a “rustic French and Spanish fusion” experience, my taste buds and sentimental heartstrings were heightened. Would this new restaurant bring to mind adventures in the South of France and Rioja, Spain?
Fast forward a few months, and my husband and I found ourselves on the hunt for a late night bite and a cocktail or two. We selected La Chasse on what felt like a whim, expecting a cozy and quiet evening at the bar. Blinds covering the windows, we were not prepared for what we saw upon opening the door. The restaurant was practically bursting at the seams, energetic diners standing shoulder to shoulder, laughter floating from table to table, the clinking of glasses at the bar offering a melodic undertone. We felt as if we had stumbled upon some secret dinner club, each guest so enthusiastic and loquacious that one would assume they were all part of the same party.
We quickly realized that we had been wrong to assume three-month-old La Chasse would be calm and quiet on a Saturday evening. The hostess was kind enough to inform us that two seats at the bar were about to become available, as two guests were going to be seated for dinner. We relished our place at the bar that night and absorbed the energy around us, the cozy but vibrant atmosphere befitting of La Chasse’s French and Spanish heritage. This atmosphere of being at home, of finding comfort in a dining room outside of your own, is just what owner Isaac Fox had in mind when he dreamt of La Chasse and, after over eight months since opening the doors, we are happy to report that the food and drinks are just as enticing as the atmosphere is evocative.
My husband and I paid another visit to La Chasse for an early dinner recently on a decidedly quieter Wednesday night. On this visit, we explored other parts of the menu. Isaac is known for his cocktail prowess, and we set about the happy task of reviewing the drink menu, which is broken into six categories: aperitif, sparkling, refreshing, savory, strong and punches. A sucker for any cocktail boasting sparkling wine, I selected the Tin Roo, an herbaceous drink crafted with thyme-infused vodka, plum liqueur, lemon and Champagne. An effervescent sprig of fresh thyme adorned the champagne flute and ensured that every sip was a multisensory treat. My husband settled upon La Chasse’s Double Oak Manhattan, which finds an unsurprising home in the “strong” menu category. Using Woodford Double Oak bourbon as the base, green walnut syrup, Cynar 70, sherry and bitters are added for what is a bold, but smooth, Manhattan experience.
We nibbled on warm-from-the-oven Blue Dog Bread served with olive oil as we sipped our cocktails and perused the dinner menu, which is, in my opinion, the perfect size, offering just enough selection while remaining succinct and befitting of the scope of the restaurant. A selection of 10 starters make up half of the menu, indicating that a sampling of small plates constitutes a worthwhile meal at La Chasse. Classic French fare, like sweetbreads and a lobster and artichoke gratin, intermix with Spanish-inspired dishes of ancho chile-braised carnitas and scallops with crispy chorizo. We were quickly won over by the evening’s appetizer special of foie gras, the exterior of the foie kissed by flame, ensuring the interior remained rich and creamy. Paired with a mushroom and ramp compote and topped with crispy shallots, the portion size was on point, offering just the right amount of foie’s beloved richness without spoiling the rest of our meal.
Our waitress informed us that the octopus appetizer had recently been added back to the menu after many requests from regulars, so we knew we had to see what the fuss was all about. A beautiful presentation of fried potato disks and tendrils of octopus was set before us, dollops of aioli and leaves of parsley decorating the top. The octopus was tender and rustic, the potatoes extending just the right amount of crunch, the parsley ensuring freshness was not lost.
Our dinner entrées were equally beautiful upon presentation and also full of flavors that were nuanced while remaining approachable. My selection of the fried rabbit was a winning choice and a dish that, while classically French, was one I had not enjoyed in this format. A leg of rabbit is braised and then pan fried, the crispy exterior giving way to meat that simply falls off the bone. Served with fingerling potatoes and haricot verts, the true star of the plate may very well be the peppernade sitting atop the rabbit, a lightly sweet blend of red peppers, onion and garlic that adds balance to this truly delicious dish. My husband couldn’t resist La Chasse’s take on steak frites, a dish we told you about earlier this year, and the best selling entrée on the menu. Wagyu flank steak is coated with brown sugar and cumin and cooked to a perfect medium-rare. The crispy frites are just right, and it is easy to see why this dish is a go-to for so many diners who visit La Chasse.
While we were certainly full, one simply cannot turn down dessert at any restaurant boasting French cuisine. We topped off our meal with La Chasse’s chocolate mousse, which was as rich as I hoped it would be, and a serving of their housemade strawberry sorbet, a lovely counter to the mousse and the ideal palate cleanser, refreshing our senses after such a wonderfully flavorful experience.
While still in its freshman year, La Chasse has all of the makings of a Louisville original, fitting right into the demanding restaurant scene with grace, ease and — most importantly — classic food and drink befitting of our city’s culinary landscape. We are so pleased to have a seat at their table.
La Chasse is located at 1359 Bardstown Road and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Call (502) 822-3963 or visit lachasselouisville.com for reservations.
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