REVIEW: The Catbird Seat

2018 came to a close with Chef Ryan Poli cooking a final meal at The Catbird Seat on December 29th after 3 years with the “avant-garde dining gem.”  It’s a new year and new chefs will be introduced in February. As my friends and I reflected on our “Best of 2018” experiences on New Year’s Eve, I knew, without a doubt, my “best meal” pick was The Catbird Seat.

I recently read a comparison of the dining experience at The Catbird Seat to hearing live music, specifically at the Ryman here in Nashville. The diner, Ben Kuttler, appeared as a guest writer on Nashville blog, Type-A Explorations, and expressively described the parallels between the Ryman and Catbird Seat as a feeling like “a massage at the center of your body.” On the other hand, the late, great Anthony Bourdain was so enamored with the pasta he was served at The Catbird Seat he claimed he would “face-plant in a big fuckin’ bowl of this” and “would wake up and eat this cold in a Tupperware container” like Tony Soprano does with Carmela’s legendary ziti.

High praise indeed. The figurative and literal accounts of The Catbird Seat experience, each an eloquent rendition of the multi-course meal, are both entirely accurate. I’ve been very fortunate to dine at several tasting menu restaurants all over the world and every time it was a special orchestrated performance unique to the chef(s), location and cuisine, not unlike the magical experience of listening to music live. I have to agree with Ben when he described “getting lost in the sound” of live music. Next time you’re at a venue with great acoustics, hearing an extremely talented musician, close your eyes. It feels as if every note resounds through the body pulling at every single heartstring stirring the soul. Tasting food, some things you’ve never heard of before, prepared in a way you couldn’t imagine recreating, the sheer inventiveness baffling the mind, sparks that similar feeling. Sounds of beautiful music and bites of something so indescribably delicious will absolutely move you to the core.

Continue reading “REVIEW: The Catbird Seat”

REVIEW: Lyra

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.

IMG_9472.jpg

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.

IMG_2737

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.

IMG_8447

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.

IMG_8819

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.

IMG_5849IMG_5851

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.

IMG_5863IMG_2536

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.


Rating*:  4.5 | More Info:  Lyra | Neighborhood:  East Nashville | Cuisine Type:  Middle Eastern
*Ratings are based on a 5 point scale with 5 being an exceptional, extremely satisfactory experience. Factors taken into consideration when reviewing include atmosphere, service, taste, food/drink preparation, quality & innovation, and cost relative to the previous factors.

REVIEW: The Old School Nashville

A wonderful thing about Nashville is the abundance of farms that harvest fresh produce for the locals to enjoy.  There are close to 200 farms in and around Nashville cultivating everything from meats (we love the lamb ladies!) and dairy to gorgeous, seasonal produce. Luckily there are many local farmers’ markets to shop these ingredients year round, but why cook when you can bring the farm to the table at the farm’s restaurant?

The farm-to-table trend really began in the 60s and 70s with the hippies ditching processed foods for local and organic food.  Since then, the trend has steadily grown and  became mainstream in the early 2000s, changing diners’ habits and shedding light on the quality of food. Several of the 50 best restaurants in the world are farm-to-table restaurants with NY farm restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns coming in at #11. With increasingly more education on the science of food and how it affects our well-being from overall health, skincare and even our moods, it’s no surprise consumers are becoming more aware of what they are putting in their bodies.

IMG_4757

The Old School is a farm-to-table restaurant located in Bells Bend about 10-15 minutes from downtown Nashville on Old Hyde Ferry’s Pike. The farm is an incredible organization dedicated to giving back to the community. According to their website, it’s a “unique non-profit dedicated to producing quality farm-to-table food while providing employment for individuals of all abilities.”

Sean and I first discovered The Old School Farm when we attended our friends’ wedding there in April. The wedding in April was absolutely gorgeous, so I suggested it to another friend who recently got engaged.  She and I made a plan to go for brunch to check it out together.

IMG_0116 2

Continue reading “REVIEW: The Old School Nashville”