Up, Up and Away: Reaching the Pinnacle at 8Up

By IGOR GURYASHKIN
Staff Writer

What’s more exciting than experiencing a new restaurant in Louisville? New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and New Orleans can all claim to be culinary hubs because of their histories, populations and size, but Louisville – “the biggest small town in America” surely punches well above its weight when it comes to its love of eating and drinking? We’re ranked right at the very top in the nation in terms of restaurants per capita, and the reason for that is that we love to dine, and restaurants feel safe in opening because they know we’ll turn up in droves to try something new. And so, close to a month ago another establishment rolled the dice and opened its doors – 8Up Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen.

The first thing any individual with a love of interior design will notice is that aesthetically 8Up is already one of the most stunning dining spaces in the entire city – and it’s not even finished yet. An outdoor roof-top deck is still having its finishing touches added; it will ensure 8Up is one of the best places to spend balmy summer evenings.

Right now a narrow but still open dining room with tall ceilings adjoins a cavernous bar area that itself has a kitchen dedicated to preparing small dishes. The effect is that it creates a sense of different occasions: Come for formal dinner and enjoy the ambiance of the dining room, or just stop by for drinks and bites in the separate area.

Under the auspices of chef Russell Kook, 8Up is geared towards serving individuals who love all types of food, but united by the desire to do so in a unique atmosphere. Working in a small open kitchen at the far end of the dining room, Kook can cook and oversee all diners.

Scallop: celery root puree, black truffle.

Scallop: celery root puree, black truffle.

“We really want to use local and fresh ingredients here as much as possible,” explains Kook whose career has seen him work in acclaimed restaurants in Chicago, Florida and Las Vegas. “By doing that we can be part of the community, all while delivering great food.”

Kook, is no stranger to great food either, having been a runner-up on shows like Hell’s Kitchen, where he was awarded a perfect score by Michelin-starred chefs as well as competing on Food Network’s Iron Chef America. And so we decided to sample some of Kooks fine and delicious fare.

For an appetizer we were served Atlantic scallops on top of separate smears of celery root puree and a black truffle puree. The scallops were cooked to perfection – golden brown with crispy caramelized edges, and their fleshy texture offset by the garnish of fresh Italian parsley. But if seafood is not your preference then 8Up also caters to palates of every other variety. Alternatively, in terms of appetizers, there are selections like the Mac and Cheese – consisting of spaetzle (German-style egg noodles) and served with melted Mahon and Gruyere cheeses as well as bacon.

One particularly delicious option we also sampled was the beet salad. Thick strips of smoked salmon accompanied by three types of beets – roasted red, candied and golden, as well as sliced candied beets and a beet gel. This dish provides crunch, sweetness and acidity all served in their various forms – a hearty option in winter and a light option in summer. A sprinkle of poppy seeds was a pleasant surprise of sweetness and pleasingly gritty texture.

Downtown Derby: Old Forester signature bourbon, mash-bill syrup, and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.

Downtown Derby: Old Forester signature bourbon, mash-bill syrup, and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.

The highlight, however, was the pan roasted red snapper, served in a bowl atop of bacon dashi, grilled cucumber, barley, Trumpet Royale mushrooms and scallions. Crispy and darkened skin encased the velvety, light, flaky skin of the snapper, while the dashi added a savory yet light broth into play.

For heartier options there are  half a wood roasted Amish chicken, served with winter squash panzanella or the short ribs that come with  creamed spinach, roasted baby carrots and red wine sauce.

At the bar, bartender Levi Beckley served us a Vieux Carre a phenomenal pour of an ounce and a half of the local Copper & Kings brandy aged for 3 years in old Woodford Reserve barrels with sugar, aperol, Bulleit bourbon and pomegranate bitters – 3 ounces of alcohol all minus the stinging and burning associated. This tasty drink is instead smooth, warm and perfect for a winter evening.

8Up is a stunning venue with the ability to serve all appetites and palates, all while doing so in the stunning downtown Louisville location overlooking the skyline, with the river close by. Come Derby time it is going to be the place to be, even though it’s already that now.

8Up Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen is located at 350 W. Chestnut St., Louisville, Rooftop. For more information visit www.8uplouisville.com or call 502.631.4180.