La Chasse serves rustic, wood-fired European cuisine in Louisville

I love eating out, and not just because I enjoy trying different dishes. Visiting a new restaurant can be like entering another world: it’s not just about the food; it’s about the experience.

Isaac Fox, owner of La Chasse on Bardstown Road, says creating a feeling of a different place in Derby City is part of his restaurant vision.

“We want you to feel like you’re not in Louisville,” he said, “but that you’ve gone to a European country inn.”

‘La Chasse’ is French, but it is not a French restaurant

Fox opened La Chasse in 2015 with chef Alexander Delaney. The pair met while Fox was the beverage director at Volare on Frankfort Avenue and Delaney was the executive chef at Le Relais on Bowman Field.

“For us, ‘the hunt’ meant different things,” Fox said, adding that the cuisine is not stereotypical French fare; rather, it can best be described as rustic European. “(The name) was related to the fact that we were going to be more rustic, more back to the earth.”

This idea included offering dishes featuring game, such as rabbit, elk and venison; and using local organic vegetables where possible.

“It also really meant the constant pursuit of excellence,” Fox said, “of always trying to reach new heights and do better.”

For almost nine years he has done just that, releasing ever-evolving menus featuring unique dishes cooked on a charcoal grill.

Delaney has since left the industry and La Chasse’s kitchen and bar are now run by chef Max Powers, sous chef Joe Burner and general and bar manager Hunter Greene.

There’s a new menu at La Chasse, but don’t miss this fan favorite

The team released a new menu in May, but La Chasse regulars can still expect their favorite dishes to be on the list.

“Escargots, mussels and things like that are always very popular,” says Fox, “but our burger is (also) one of our most popular items.”

The ground New York Strip dish is served with gruyere cheese and caramelized onions on a house-made brioche bun.

“I think it’s the best burger in town,” Fox exclaimed. “It’s just fantastic.”

He adds that while there are a few frequently ordered favorites that guests can always count on, many of La Chasse’s regulars are the specials.

“We have always kept the menu strict; it’s never been a really extensive menu,” he said, “because we’re really focused on quality and good execution. But the specials (that stand out).”

These limited-time offers are usually announced on social media and can include everything from fresh seafood to exotic meats from a local farmer.

“The specials are always a must-try,” Fox said.

Be sure to check out the cocktail program at La Chasse

Because of Fox’s bar background, creating a great beverage program has been a focus since day one. He says La Chasse is known for its craft cocktail program, and the house’s best-selling drink is an old-fashioned: a maple version made with butter-washed bourbon.

He explains that making the popular drink starts a day before it is served, with melted butter that is gently browned in a pot. Bourbon and a touch of vanilla bean are added and the concoction is left to freeze overnight.

“The butter will really solidify on top,” Fox said. “That gets skimmed off, then you put the bourbon through a sieve…so you don’t have any actual chunks of butter, but what you’re left with is this very creamy bourbon.”

Finally, maple syrup and bitters complete the best-selling drink since La Chasse opened.

One of Fox’s personal favorites is the Spanish Gimlet. The cocktail is made like a classic gin gimlet, but with a few Latin accents – like habanero bitters, fresh coriander and cumin – thrown in.

He adds that the cocktail offerings range from light and refreshing to very strong, but they are always created with the food menu in mind.

“We always pair it with our food and take it to the next level,” he said, adding that the cocktail program consistently features three or four savory drinks with fun and creative ingredients, such as a hot pepper spice or curry. “We have even used truffles and mushrooms in drinks before. We try to be very food-oriented on the cocktail menu.”

Don’t miss the unique wine offering

“Our wine program is really great,” exclaimed Fox, “(with) many unusual, smaller, family, private production wines from the South of France and other areas in Europe.”

He says that in addition to many bottles from the south of France, they have also shipped wines from Lebanon, Greece, Armenia and Uruguay, to name a few. They have also curated a selection of other unique, high-quality spirits, including esoteric Armagnacs, whiskies, bourbons, cognacs, liqueurs and amaros. And as some regulars know, just because something isn’t on the menu doesn’t mean it isn’t available.

“If I’m there or if Hunter is there,” Fox said, “our regulars will ask one of us what we recommend for dinner. Something from the list – something from the secret stash – and we will comply.

He explains that if a unique wine is available but they can only get their hands on a bottle or two, they will keep it hidden from special requests.

“(We’ve) hidden a lot of cool little gems,” Fox said. “Tell us your flavor profile, price point and what style of wine you’re looking for, and we’ll find something really great for you.”

Get ready for more wine and cocktail dinners at La Chasse

“One of the things we’ve become most known for is… our wine dinners,” Fox said.

The restaurant has not offered any of these special meals for a few months, but a new series will be launched soon. Usually featuring five courses paired with wine or cocktails, the dinners are usually scheduled on a Sunday or Monday (when La Chasse is closed) so that the staff can focus solely on the event.

Each monthly dinner seats 40 to 60 people and does not necessarily include French or European cuisine.

“They are so much fun; we get to break out of our box,” Fox said. “We once did a Japanese sake dinner. We’ve been all over the place with different concepts. So keep an eye on these: they will start again soon.”

Do you know a restaurant that would make a great feature? Email writer Lennie Omalza at [email protected] or Lifestyle Editor Kathryn Gregory at [email protected].