I started planning this trip to Nashville months ago. Which meant doing a lot of research about the best places to eat in Nashville. Hands down the place that kept coming up from various sources as was Catbird Seat.
The name Catbird Seat refers to the view diner's have of chef and his team as they make our nine course tasting menu. Above is a shot of our view. "Chef" has changed at least three times since the opening of Catbird, but none have been creator's of standard fine dining cuisine. All have trained with, at some time, Rene Redzepi of Noma, Copenhagen fame. As I now apparently have a small obsession with Noma trained chefs, it seemed even more necessary to get a reservation at the 22 chair Catbird Seat to experience yet another Noma influenced artisan.
Unlike some hot-to-trot establishments of acclaim, Catbird Seat's reservation system is simple. Reservations open, online only, 30 days ahead of time. You cannot get a reservation with a phone call. So if you want a reservation make sure you are online at 10pm Pacific Standard time exactly 30 days before the date you want to get your seats. I screwed up. I fell asleep on the couch that night in March and didn't make the reservation for 3 until 7:30am the next morning. All was not lost. I got us seats for our last meal in Nashville, Thursday, April 14th, 2016 at 5:45pm.
Thursday of our Tennessee adventure finally came after many forays far and wide in the state. We got to the restaurant very early with our Uber from our airport hotel thinking we would have a drink before dinner started. The door to Catbird was locked, but we were informed we could go upstairs to Patterson House. Crisis averted. Jeremy proceeded to order another Ramos Fizz – because Patterson House is an establishment that definitely looked like it should know how to make them. The bartender new exactly what to do. Turns out the drink is actually on the menu.
She even got it to meringue. After much shaking. In fact so much shaking that by the time our drinks were made it was time to catch our reservation downstairs. Luckily, we could take our drinks with us.
They immediately gave us more drinks along with chips coated in interesting green dust
and a tasty version of buttery creamy herby Top the Tater in a perfect egg shape.
I washed these down with a dry champagne while Jeremy and Dan decided to get a bottle of red from Slovenia. I did the wine pairing with the courses – a happy choice on my part for the ride was to be one of tremendous flavor and surprise. For a woman who has willingly eaten water bugs in search of new and unique flavors – to be surprised is the highest compliment I can give any chef. But as I told chef at the table when he observed me taking tasting notes – I am not a critic, I am a lover of food and flavor- so anything I write would be about the joy of eating the food prepared.
This beautiful dish is a Hama Hama oyster paired with ice cream, sitting on top of a mushroom broth consume´- you eat the oyster and follow it with the ice cream. The sea salt soft ocean cream of the oyster followed by the dairy soft cream of the ice cream and the light sweet of both was the most amazing mouth feel of all time – like angels had a pillow fight in my mouth and it exploded into the softest down comforter wrap of my tongue. That good.
Above is a risotto. A risotto made out of sunflower seeds, fermented sunflower root, served with sunflower sprouts. A sunflower trifecta for the mouth. It felt like a risotto in my mouth except it tasted of rich silky smooth sunflower seed. Not at all like eating a mouthful of seeds, or even getting a bite of seed in a salad – it was as if the flavor of sunflower molted into a rich silk cream and became a hint of flavor that you could bite and cause to burst all over your taste buds – the tang of the root and the bright green of the sprout perfectly complimented it.
This pretty dish is fluke with a citrus garlic parsley sauce and a little potato chip. Super fresh fish and citrus forward sauce jumped with the salt of the chip. It paired phenomenal with the Chardonnay I had in my hand.
Here is seaweed pasta covered in shaved smoked and dried scallop. I smiled enthusiastically to find smoked and dried seafood in a dish outside of Iceland. I would never have thought to do this to a scallop, or to find it in Nashville. Yay! surprise. The dish was viscous with the egg and butter in the sauce, the green noodles slurped satisfyingly and tasted of the ocean with a hint of sea smoke.
Meanwhile, the orchestra of motion in front of us progressed at a rapid pace. Watching the team work was a concerto of movement – each just an extension of the other playing the same score.
This beauty is cauliflower with beef tallow, turnip, nasturtium and pea shoots. The beef tallow tasted like peanut butter and the cauliflower meaty all balanced with the light and zippy pea and nasturtium leaves. Another exploration in texture from gooey to chewy to the rooty chalk of the turnip. Fun frolic across the taste buds.
The last savory dish was an umami crusted slice of beef with a shiso and eggplant sauce. A perfect marriage of surf and turf right on the steak.
The dessert courses start to blur with the dessert wine from France I was drinking. Above is a panna cotta with lemony olive oil and marigold leaves.
Meringue with seaweed and dark bitter chocolate.
Cookies! in a Homer Simpson cookie jar.
Cheesy picture of Chef holding Homer cookie jar.
Giddy Jeremy and Dan post meal very happy about the experience. A perfect end to a fun trip exploring the high and low of Tennessee cultural opportunities from Nashville to Gatlinburg. Their flight was scheduled for bright and early the next morning and I would be left for a final day in Nashville alone as there were no good Friday flight options back to Seattle. I had no problem looking forward to one more day in the Midwestern South sunshine.