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Chef Crush:

August 15, 2012

America’s Buzziest New Resto…Is in Nashville?!!!

The aptly-named Catbird Seat is killing it on the culinary front with not one but two pedigreed chefs

By Nancy Staab

The Intimate, Tasting Menu-Based Eatery The Catbird Seat puts Nashville on the Culinary Map

Immersion cooked beef in kale ash and the chefs at The Catbird Seat Immersion cooked beef in kale ash and the chefs at The Catbird Seat

Sure, there’s Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and fancy dining at the legendary The Capitol Grille, but upstart new eatery The Catbird Seat has the entire nation chatting now about Nashville and for once it’s not about its kitschy country music scene but its culinary fireworks. The aptly-named The Catbird Seat was named one of America’s Ten Best New Restaurant for 2011 by GQ magazine, its chefs were named among the Best New Chefs 2012 in Food & Wine magazine and the joint has been buzzed by media from The New York Times to Town & Country.

The porcini mushroom Oreo The porcini mushroom Oreo

So what’s all the fuss about?  Well, for one the restaurant is owned by the proprietor’s of Nashville’s most popular speakeasy The Patterson House (located directly below The Catbird Seat); the chef duo Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger boast The French Laundry, Alinea, Craft, The Fat Duck, St. John’s, and Nordic sensation Noma (recently named world’s best restaurant for the second year in a row) on their resumes; the choice eatery boasts only 32 seats, with 20 seats encircling the chef’s table; and Catbird dares to offer an innovative, daily changing prix fixe tasting menu in the land of meat-and-threes!   The establishment even offers its own take on Nashville’s famed Prince’s hot chicken in an amuse bouche of crispy chicken skin lacquered with sorghum, cayenne and paprika with Wonder Bread puree dots on top. Other playful appetizers on offer:  a grown up “Oreo” of porcini cookie wafers filled with Parmesan cream, or a quintessentially Southern “re-make” of warm cornbread--but injected with bacon pudding. Surprisingly, these gutsy, he-man chefs even know how to pretty up the plates with edible flowers. The mood is boisterous and friendly, not pretentious, with the dinner theater centered around the lively and experimental open kitchen.

Other innovative menu items:  octopus and turnips wrapped in ribbons of spicy kimchi with picked Daikon and shiitake mushroom crisps, purple flowers and coconut milk powder; a cannoli of butternut squash with a spaghetti squash and Brussels sprouts filling; sous-vide duck; braised pork belly in shrimp bisque with pickled pistachios and jalapeno cream; grass-fed beef filet with cream of spring garlic, raw shallots and black currant puree; and for dessert vanilla-bean cake with charred-oak ice cream and Bulleit bourbon-infused “bullets.” The latter dish conjuring a bit of molecular gastronomy magic worthy of El Bulli.

And don’t miss the masterly drink pairings like the re-invented Champagne cocktail with a beer-infused sugar cube, sake and bourbon. It’s hard to define this food: southern-molecular, new nouveau perhaps or as Bon Appetit describes it “avant-garde country”? And that’s the real genius of this can’t-be-pigeonholed culinary bastion.

The Catbird Seat serves dinner Wed. through Sat. Reservations required.

Charcoal bbq roast root vegetables with salsify, potato, crispy pheasant, gelee Charcoal bbq roast root vegetables with salsify, potato, crispy pheasant, gelee

Ribeye of beef Ribeye of beef