By Emma Castleberry
Nestled quaintly on the corner of Battery Park Avenue and Haywood Street, Isa’s French Bistro brings an iconic, European style to the heart of downtown Asheville with its striped awnings, red umbrellas and overflowing flower boxes. In these chillier months, the windows glow with warm light, inviting visitors in from the cold for a dining experience unlike any other. At Isa’s, diners can enjoy innovative dishes, a rich and diverse beverage menu, and the comfort of a casual and approachable French restaurant. “The beauty of Isa’s is that it’s a project of love,” says Robert Delarosa, the vice president of food and beverage at Isa’s Bistro. “The ownership have traveled extensively abroad and wanted to share those fond memories with the community of Asheville. The collective experience of classic French dinners paired with Old World wines was the motivation and inspiration for bringing Isa’s to 1 Battery Park Avenue.”
Executive chef Peter Crockett balances the creative and traditional in Isa’s menu, which includes offerings like chicken cordon bleu, mussels, steak frites and escargot with bone marrow. “Not only do we want our guests to have excellent service but we also want them to be able to approach our menu with ease,” says Crockett. “We take French cuisine and give it southern inspiration, which separates us from other French restaurants.”
The cordon bleu dish starts with local chicken thighs that are tenderized and then rolled in house-made mustard, Goodnight Brothers Country Ham, Thomasville Tomme cheese and sage. The thighs are then wrapped in chicken skin, breaded, fried and served over a braised white bean and collard ragout.
For the escargot and bone marrow dish, the bone marrow is rendered in-house and whipped into a compound butter. The roasted and cleaned bones are then filled with the butter and topped with escargot and more butter. “When it’s ordered, the dish is placed in the oven to roast,” says Crockett. “Once hot, we set that on top of a warm, house-made croissant and finish with a parsley aioli.”
Delarosa says his favorite dish changes with the seasonal menu, but he is partial to Chef Crockett’s chicken citron. “The chicken is locally sourced from Joyce Farms and lathered in a citrus beurre blanc sauce that has capers, sweety drop peppers and wilted greens,” says Delarosa. “The capers give it a briny pop, the peppers have an almost vegetal sweetness, the greens give it texture and it all rests on a bed of angel hair pasta.”
Dining is a holistic experience at Isa’s and no great meal is complete without great beverages to accompany it. The restaurant features an extensive wine list from France and beyond, as well as a creative and seasonal cocktail menu designed by bar manager Taylor Ward. “We spend a lot of time in our beverage selections to make sure they pair properly with our carefully crafted cuisine,” says Crockett. A clear favorite has risen to the top in this winter’s cocktail menu: a rum cocktail called the Gold Bug. “Much like its namesake by Edgar Allan Poe, the recipe is very adventurous,” says Delarosa. “Plantation rum harbors exotic notes of pineapple and coconut, the chartreuse lends an exotic herbiness and a slight ocean-air finish, and it’s garnished with edible gold glitter, making it a treasure waiting to be found.”
The holidays are a busy time at Isa’s, when the restaurant hosts an elegant Christmas Dinner event and the glamorous Midnight in Paris party on New Year’s Eve. Delarosa adds that gift cards for a dining experience at Isa’s are a wonderful holiday gift for almost anyone on your list and can be purchased easily on the restaurant’s website. “Chef Peter and our culinary team are working on new menu additions that feature local producers, Old World techniques and a little bit of that Asheville Appalachia spirit,” he says. “Make sure to reserve early and join us soon.”
Isa’s French Bistro is located at 1 Battery Park Avenue in Asheville and free valet parking is available at the Haywood Park Hotel next door. For more information, find Isa’s on Facebook and Instagram, visit IsasBistro.com or call the restaurant at 828.575.9636.