The husband and I are devout lovers of food, all kinds, without much reservation for what we commit to putting into our mouths. We love trying new things, and we really, *really* love fine dining. All that being said, we try to have a big dinner somewhere fancy every so often, to refresh our senses and to have a unique and wonderful dining experience.
Now, let me offer a disclaimer: this is a really in-depth, blow-by-blow, every single morsel review. If you’re not interested in that kind of thing, then this isn’t the Hello post for you Thanks for stopping in, though! Now, I’ll continue:
A few months back, we heard about the Catbird Seat. Situated right about Patterson House (one of our favorite places), the restaurant– which opened in mid October on a Wednesday– promised to die-for food served in a kind of kitchen roundtable: it’s shaped like a U around the action of the kitchen, where diners can interact with the chefs as they prepare your meal. As soon as we heard about the restaurant (then not yet even being built) I started a “Catbird Seat” fund. I knew I wanted to go, and I kind of stalked their facebook fan page and asked to be notified when their reservation system went live. As soon as it did, I made our reservation– for the one Saturday in October that was totally wedding free.
Now,that week, I had a minor setback– I was sick all week long. Like, dead-dog sick, so sick I wanted to cry and gnash the teeth. During my time off I read all of the Hunger Games books, watched a few television series on Hulu, and slept about 16 hours a day. On Thursday– when I felt absolutely no better, I was convinced I was going to miss my Catbird Seat experience (and pay a hefty $75 per diner cancellation fee– ouch). But with doctors visits, antibiotics, and prayers, I awoke Saturday healed and feeling really great. Hurrah! So, we journeyed on to the Catbird Seat.
Our reservations were for 6:30: We arrived, valeted (complementary) and were promptly greeted by name at the door by the dapper front of house manager and led upstairs via elevator. The anteroom to the restaurant had this really cool glowing magenta wall treatment, and then you step into the dining area that is stark and modern: The walls are white, the U-shaped bar around the kitchen is a rich deep mahogany, and the only illumination around the dining bar is a u-shaped florescent lighting fixture. The focus isn’t on decor but the kitchen. This is a really great contrast to the feeling of the Patterson House downstairs– which is dark and richly textured and so period it’s enviable– the Catbird Seat may as well bear no relation. Two booths– seating what looks about a max of 4– are on either side of the U kitchen– with a great modern light fixture over each space, and the back wall is simply appointed with a variety of specialty glassware.
We sat, were offered water, and instantly introduced to the sommilier– Jane– who offered a few beverage options: One, a base libation pairing menu that pairs various alcoholic beverages with each course for $30, a reserve offering with higher-end liquors for $75 per person, or a limited wine list with suggestions expertly paired with the menu. Since we were going all out, we decided to go with the reserve pairing. More on that later. After meeting Jane, we started off with a little black ricek and tandoori crisp, followed by a “snack” plate expertly prepared by Tom: three little morsels: A baby radish with a sea urchin salt, the Catbird Seat’s take on a “hot chicken” : crispy chicken skin, a blend of seasonings (papricka, red pepper, and cayenne) dusted on top, with a dill salt on top and two little dots of pureed wonderbread, and a porchini mushroom and Parmesan cheese oreo. This was paired with a Vin d’Orange, a house-made concoction of a base of rose wine with infused flavors, including juniper berry. I can’t recall all the other ingredients, but it was nothing short of divine.
The snacks themselves were a delight. My favorite item on the plate was the baby radish with sea urchin: a salty, delicious nibble. The hot chicken was imaginative but to me lacked a great definition of flavor. The Porcini + Parm “oreo” was a savory bite that played with the mind: you felt like you were supposed to taste something sweet, but instead, it was just rich decadence in your mouth. All in all, I think the snacks were a great inviation for things to come in the meal.
<A quick disclaimer: all the images are courtesy my i-Phone, please don’t judge the less than stellar image quality!)
Following the Snacks course, we experienced the salad course– also prepared by Tom. This amazing dish had charcoal barbequed root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, rutebega, salsify, yukon gold potatoes, beets) and some of this incredible pheasant … jelly?… like stuff. This salad made me want to cry from the sweet joy of it’s existence. It was really that awesome. I’m not kidding. We sipped more of the Vin d’Orange and awaited the next course.
Now, let me take a moment to comment upon the immpecable timing of this meal: you had a pause in between courses, one to chat or just let your digestion happen, but you were never long awaiting your next plate. It was perfect. After our salad course, we were presented with a Miso Cured Haddock with shitaki mushrooms, a gel made from Ginger and Yuzu, and a little furikake cracker. Uh, yummy. It was paired with a cold Sake: the Sesshu Otokoyama Junmai Sake from Hyugo, Japan. The haddock was perfectly cooked with an excellent Miso flavor, and rested in a shitaki dashi broth and upon a Gomae circlet– a little spinach salad. The ginger gel was ridiculous– it tasted like an intensely flavorful ginger jell-o. I don’t even like fish!
The Saki was delightful: it was cold sake, unfiltered, and had a beautiful cloudy look to it. The flavor was on the drier side and it was very refreshing– a great neutral like pairing to let the flavors in the fish shine.
After that course, we got a delightful little carbonated white tea with ginger, mint, and cardamon as a palette cleanser. And then we moved on to the poultry course: A Wedge Oak Farm Chicken, served witha smoked tea (Lapsong) sauce, and a butternut and spaghetti squash. The chicken was made with equal parts of the breast, thigh, and leg, and then was all wedged together (think Turducken style) and topped with crispy skin. This chicken was melt in your mouth delicious. It was the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. The squash was amazing as well, with notes of sage. Soo, soo good. It was paired with a 2009 Alsase based Gewurztraminer — Paul Blanck– full of really nice apricot notes and not too terribly sweet on the finish.
Both of the previous courses were prepared by chef Josh Habinger : His palate and flavor choices are incredible, and we both deeply enjoyed the courses and conversation.
Following up the poultry course, we had an egg and steak course: a poached egg served with Wagyu beef, a truffle sauce, and a potato cream. This was prepared by chef Erik Anderson and was paired with Gruet NV Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico. The egg was awesome (and my husband has been dreaming of it ever since he ate it), the steak expertly flavored and perfectly prepared, and the potato cream was divine. It paired perfectly with the Gruet, a sparkling wine with complex flavors and a richness that met the egg and meat perfectly.
We rounded the corner with a Lamb dish: this was served with all these unique charred vegetables: charred eggplant, cucumbers, shallots, and parsley, along with the rich lamb. The dish was paired with a Chateau Musar 09 “Jeune” from Lebanon: the intense and enigmatic flavors of the wine– heady and rich with accents of anise– was a perfect complement to the lamb. I don’t think I could drink this wine with anything other than this dish, the flavors were almost too intense– but I definitely enjoyed the complement.
The following course was the cheese course: a Jasper Hill Harbison from vermont served with fennel and black walnut crumbles. It was paired with a triple Karmeuet beer from Belgium. I didn’t want to dance in the streets over this course– maybe because I’m not as into cheese, but my husband felt the same way. It was good, but not divine.
The final course was the dessert course: tiny wedges of vanilla cake with pineapple,cherry, burnt oak ice cream, and tiny little bourbon balls that exploded in your mouth with every bite. We enjoyed this course with a 2008 Royal Tokaji “Mad Cuvee”– a late harvest wine, with a glass that was rinsed with a black maple hill whiskey. Yumm-y. The cake provided the perfect neutral complement to the sweetness of the pineapple and the strong flavor of the burnt oak ice cream. A perfect ending to a beautiful meal. The little exploding bourbon balls were a delicious fascination.
In closing, I felt that the dining experience was nothing short of exceptional. It may take us a while to get back there, but we will one day and I can’t wait to see what the chefs have created. It’s most certainly the best restaurant in Nashville, and you should make every attempt to soujourn there at your earliest opportunity– it’s well worth the expense. At the close of the dinner they give you a detailed menu to take home that documented your journey, along with a tiny morsel of peanut nougat… delicious!