Thursday, April 25, 2013

blvd nashville...like an old friend in a new dress!

People who know me know that I judge restaurants by the bread.  Give me a basket of warm, delicious bread and something yummy to spread on it and I instantly fall in love. On that basis alone, Nashville's blvd is my new favorite spot.  My friend and I sat down last night and ordered the signature cocktail, the "Pinky Lee"  (Mine with gin, hers with tequila)...a pink grapefruity concoction with a sweet/salty rim.  It was the perfect way to start a girl's night out.  Then our waiter (who was so good-looking it was hard to look away) plopped down this.

Who can pass up a soft, steaming, just salty enough pretzel with stone ground apricot mustard?  But the cornbread waffle underneath was my favorite.  Just slightly sweet, with a little salt, it almost didn't need the soft, creamy vanilla butter served along side.  Almost...but a small smear of butter melted into the edges and it was pure heaven.  We could easily have devoured the entire basket but wouldn't have had room for the rest of the menu, which consisted of french bistro food with a uniquely Arnold Myint southern flair.

Myint is a Nashville native whose parents own the local International Market, which introduced Nashvillians to Thai food back in 1975.  As a college student down the street in the early 80's, I have fond memories of stopping in to grab inexpensive noodle dinners, which were very exotic at the time.  Arnold hit the restaurant scene hard here in Nashville, after a stint as a professional ice skater and a little time in NYC, and many people know him after his WAYYYYY too early exit from Top Chef season 7.  (He was way too nice to point fingers, but his partner on his final competition refused to cook the pasta early enough, and although the judges loved the taste of their dish, they were both eliminated because the pasta was too al dente. )

Arnold has a passion for international food, as is evidenced in his four Nashville restaurants...PM, Suzy Wong's House of Yum, AM@FM (Arnold Myint at Farmer's Market), and now blvd nashville, the metamorphasis of Cha-chah, which he closed last fall to renovate and transform into a bistro/bar/market.  I loved Cha-chah, but Myint recognized that the concept wasn't a perfect fit for Nashville, thus the reorganization, and in my opinion, it's a home run!

Thankfully, our friends joined us before I ate the entire basket of bread and we began ordering.  The warm brussels sprout salad...thankfully kept on the menu from Cha-chah, "le french fries", a perfectly crisp stack of hand cut fries with six choices of coatings (We opted for the hickory salt and pepper, but I can't wait to try some of the others, like the truffle oil and chive, or madras spiced curry), and the lamb meatballs.  The portions are large enough to share, so we plopped them down in the middle of the table and enjoyed.  And enjoyed.  When the waiter came to take our orders, we were stuffed, but still ordered the salmon and grits (rare but crispy, with grits and a drizzle of Tobasco gastrique), mashed parsnips (a parsnip/potato mash that I was happy to see on the menu after trying it at a fundraiser at Cha-chah last year), and wilted greens (yummy arugula, lightly wilted, highly flavorful). 
Photo from The Tennessean

I honestly loved every bite.  We ate until we couldn't eat any more.  But I will be back.  There were many menu items I still want to try...Walnut Gnocchi, Quinoa Falafel Wrap, Tuna Nicoise sandwich.   There were many yummy looking dishes for you meat eaters out there as well, Cassoulet, Shepard's Pie, Steak Frites, Croque Monsieur,  etc.  Also, it's nice to know that their food comes from many local artisans and vendors. The only negative I could possibly say is that they were out of the premium chardonnay by the glass.  But to be honest, the house chardonnay was just fine.

I wish I had taken photos of the interior...the warm picnic tables with cushioned chairs, the cozy seating area in front, or the exterior wood, which all combine to make a very inviting, stylish, charming atmosphere.  I wouldn't expect any less from Arnold.