Nashville has an incredible, burgeoning food scene, receiving accolades from Vogue, NY Times, USA Today, Bon Appetite as a “must visit food city.” Although several of the restaurants are outposts from Atlanta, Charleston or even NYC, local, Nashville eateries are also popping up left and right. Lyra is the latest and it did not disappoint.
Lyra is a new (it opened in mid-June) middle eastern restaurant in East Nashville on West Eastland Avenue. Chef Hrant Arakelian brings flavors he grew up on and experience cheffing at local standbys such as Rumours East, Butchertown Hall and Etch. The menu is full of fresh breads and smaller starters that are great for sharing.
We came with some friends that recently moved to Nashville from NYC as well; we’re beyond thrilled they are here! They’re renting an adorable house in East Nashville, so we wanted to do dinner somewhere in their new neighborhood. The four of us started with drinks from the list of villain-inspired cocktails, such as Ursula, Green Goblin, Bellatrix, Dark Phoenix, etc. I opted for the Dark Phoenix, a tequila, grapefruit, Campari concoction with rosemary syrup that had a delightful freshness for a summer’s night but with that bitter kick from the Campari.
To start, we shared some of the breads that smelled heavenly. We went for the standard hummus, aleppo, the cauliflower lahmacun and the salt baked heirloom tomatoes. Everything was perfect! The hummus was creamy and full of flavor and the pita fresh, soft and warm. We didn’t realize the hummus came with pita (rookie mistake) so next time we probably wouldn’t order hummus and one of the breads. The breads are like a middle eastern version of bruschetta or a tartine consisting of a larger piece of pita with a cauliflower purée spread on top. After not eating bread in over a month, the extra bread did not upset me. The salt baked tomatoes were juicy, fresh and popped in your mouth.
For our mains, Sean and I decided to share the scallops and spiced hangar steak. Both were incredible! The scallops were cooked perfectly – completely tender and crisp on the outside and were served with potato skordalia – essentially, a garlic potato mash – spring beans, za’atar and pickled shallots. The spring beans added a nice crunch to an otherwise smooth dish and the za’atar provided that delicious middle eastern spice flavoring that is so comforting.
The hangar steak was also cooked perfectly medium rare and tender. But, the creamed greens accompanying the steak stole the show for me. I could have eaten a bowl of the creamed greens alone! The spiced cauliflower and chickpeas went well with the steak and it was a very generous portion, perfect for splitting. We both felt completely satisfied with the amount of food and somehow found room for dessert.
Sean has a HUGE sweet tooth and since we’ve been together I’ve learned dessert or “pudding” (he’s English) is a must if we’re going out to eat. Thankfully, there were four of us to share this time. We split the ice cream of the day and the special chocolate cake with whipped sour cream and strawberries. I was intrigued by the Turkish coffee and always love ending a meal with coffee. I’m one of those that can drink caffeine at night and still fall fast asleep, but our server, Justin, warned me the Turkish coffee is not an average espresso. Turkish coffee is much stronger due to the method of preparing very finely ground unfiltered coffee. I’m a coffee lover so was intrigued and up for the challenge. Wooo, Justin was not lying, it was extremely strong and I actually had to add some of the sugar syrup to cut the bitterness, something I never do. The ice cream, cake and coffee were the perfect sweet ending to an incredible meal.
I was beyond impressed with the service and couldn’t find fault with the food. Some of my companions found the food slightly under-seasoned. There’s nothing I hate more than over seasoning, so this didn’t bother me. The atmosphere was nice, clean and modern, however very quiet. I’m assuming this is due to the fact we went so early on after its initial opening, but we’re hoping for a bit more atmosphere next time. I knocked gave Lyra a 4.8 in my review for the lack of atmosphere and my companions’ feedback on the seasoning – other than that, I found it faultless and absolutely cannot wait to go back.
BONUS: Justin, our server, even gave us a list of his favorite cocktail bars in Nashville, a welcome recommendation to new-comers. We decided to try the Fox Bar & Cocktail Club after dinner. Although, it’s a little further out from town it is a cozy, boozy cocktail club with strong drinks and a cool, Mad Men cocktail club vibe. I definitely recommend it and Mickey’s (on Justin’s list below) is a dive bar next door to The Fox Cocktail Club – see more photos below.