Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Best of India


Nashville Restaurants and Food
Best of India
5815 Charlotte Pike
Nashville
615-352-5335


It’s always hard to judge a restaurant by the buffet line and it seems especially tough at an ethnic restaurant. You wonder if the food is just dumbed down for the cheap eats crowd. Now, we happen to be proud members of the cheap eats crowd, but we also demand good food. And with Indian restaurants in Nashville the buffet line is a major source of competition. If you’re going to do it, you had better do it right. So, with all that in mind we embark to Best of India on the west side. It’s one of those non-descript restaurants wedged into a strip mall next to a Rent-a-Center.

The 12 item buffet is rather modest. On this Sunday it featured chicken dishes on one side and vegetarian items on the other. This is a nice set-up for us, and for many folks out there. Vegetarians usually fare quite well at Indian restaurants. Cucumber salad, fruit, yogurt sauce and Gulab Jamun, which is basically a donut, soaked in honey, rounded out the options.

The Chicken Makhani proved to have a savory flavor and that was a good start to the meal. The white basmati rice was a bit dry, but a passable companion. The Chicken Curry was a disappointment, mild to the point of tastelessness and with overcooked chicken chunks. The Tandoori Chicken fared a little better, but not much. The chicken side of the table was weak at best. So, what did the Veggie Eater find on the other side of the table?

Veggie Eater: This place hit the spot for me. The buffet offered 3 veggie entrees (Eggplant Curry, Curried Veggies and Dal) plus Basmati rice, salad, Nan, Veggie Pakoras for an app and the donuty desserty thing. The Pakoras were wonderful; they were perfectly crisped and the raita was a perfect accompaniment. The Dal was the best of the main courses. The Eggplant Curry had a slightly sweet allspice flavor. The curries were tame, but there was a hot sauce available to spunk it up. I thought it was odd that there were not any chutneys available for the buffet. The staff was attentive. The people watching was interesting. Was it spectacular Indian food? No. However, on a hot Sunday afternoon, it was exactly what I was craving.

Meat Eater: I have to agree that the veggie items were better than any of the chicken dishes. The Dal Makhani was the best food on the line, and the Veggie Pakoras were cooked perfectly. Regulars came in the door, quizzing the owners to see if favorite items were to be had on the buffet that day. It’s obvious they have a local clientele and that’s a good thing. We paid just $18 with tip for two of us, and that may be the big attraction at Best of India. It certainly is not among the best Indian restaurants in Nashville, but it does provide a decent, cheaper, neighborhood meal and sometimes that fits the bill.
Best of India on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

El Jaliciense Taqueria


Nashville Restaurants and Food
El Jaliciense Taqueria
6321 Charlotte Pike
Nashville
615-354-5600


Guacamole can be a revealing appetizer at Mexican restaurants. There are dozens of different styles, some regional and some just a matter of taste. One thing that remains standard at all good Mexican restaurants: the Guacamole has to be fresh and homemade. We were off to a good start at El Jaliciense. We found Guacamole to have thick chunks of ripe avocado and a hint of lime. It’s a simple version, without all the spice and add-ins, but the freshness ruled the day.

El Jaliciense is a family owned taqueria. The menu is made up of straightforward Mexican American items. This isn’t the place to go if you’re feeling adventurous. Menudo (spicy tripe soup) and Posole (a thick soup made with pork and hominy) are about as wild as it gets. However, it is a taqueria, and that’s probably to be expected. The emphasis here is simple food done right.

The Chile Rellenos are fresh poblanos, stuffed with a creamy cheese and topped with sauce. The El Jaliciense twist to this is a unique, perhaps roux based, sauce with a light, citrusy flavor. It compliments the dish, without overwhelming. The poblanos are lightly fried and not gummed up in tons of breading.

The Bistek a al Mexicana is pounded flat beef, char grilled and served up with grilled onions, tomatoes, peppers and jalapeno peppers. Some careful tasting revealed that the jalapenos were the real deal. By picking around them I managed to experience a nice little burn to the lips, without getting overwhelmed.

Grilling is a regular theme at El Jaliciense. There’s grilled chicken and a lunch special that features grilled strips of beef, ham and chorizo covered with cheese. Seafood was a popular choice on the day we visited. One smiling young man tackled a grande sized bowl of caldo de marisco filled with shrimp. Another shrimp item comes grilled with a special hot sauce.

The menu has a vegetarian section and the staff was happy to explain whether other items had meat or not. The service was quick and efficient. Best of all they really seem to enjoy being in the restaurant business. At one point there was a boo-boo back in the kitchen and what sounded like 20 plastic cups crashed to the floor. A woman serving another table just smiled and offered a few words of encouragement.

Veggie Eater: Probably the best Chile Relleno I've had in Nashville; the chiles appear to be fresh, not frozen as I've had in a lot of other restaurants. The enchilada sauce was great; satiny and citrusy. Portions are generous; my rellenos came with rice, beans, guacomole, lettuce, tomatoes. More than enough left over to look forward to a great lunch later in the week.

Meat Eater: Our total for lunch was $25 with tax and tip. Charlotte Pike is a great alternative to Nolensville Road if you want to explore the world of food. You can choose from Korean, Vietnamese, Indian and a growing selection of excellent Mexican restaurants. It’s also worth a stop to the west-side version of K and S foods, the massive international super market, which has rows and rows of foods from China, Thailand, Mexico, India, the Philippines, just to name a few.
El Jalisiense Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
123 Ewing Drive
Nashville
615-226-9442


This Nashville legend lives up to the reputation. The fried chicken is unlike anything else around: incredibly spicy and amazingly tasty. Hot Chicken is a Nashville specialty thanks to Prince’s and it really needs to be about more than the heat. Prince’s delivers. The batter is a complex mix of spices that you can taste best in the mild form. The medium version cranks up the heat quite a bit, and would rate as hot at almost any other restaurant. The hot is way out there, and has made more than a few persons uncomfortable, to say the least. It seems every TV food host in America has to take on the hot version, and usually succumbs well before they are finished. This is a shame, since the mild and medium versions have such complex flavor.

Prince’s is also known for the atmosphere. It’s the type of place where construction workers dine with city council members and quite often the soon to be ex-mayor, who is perhaps the number one fan. The tables are shared by everyone, so expect to meet new people. You’ll also meet folks in line, since Prince’s cooks the chicken to order and that means a real wait, especially at lunch time. It’s not unheard of to spend 45 minutes to an hour in line. The regulars know this and settle into the time-honored southern practice of shooting the breeze with anyone around them. It’s a wonderful immersion into Nashville culture.

The Hot Chicken comes served on white bread, which helps with the heat. The slaw is quite good and is a nice complement to the meal. Make sure you get lots of napkins because it’s a messy affair. It’s also one of Nashville’s finest meals, whether you go for lunch or for a late night munch.

Pre's Hot Chicken Shack on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Scoreboard Bar and Grill


Nashville Restaurants and Food
Scoreboard Bar and Grill
2408 Music Valley Drive
Nashville
615-883-3866


Just across from Opryland lies working class tourist land. It’s a kind of worn strip mall area, where you can wander around the Willie Nelson Museum, see Ernest Tubbs' original tour bus or even go to church at the Stardust on Sundays. This area also happens to be a real neighborhood for folks who live in Donelson. The Scoreboard Bar and Grill is one of those neighborhood haunts. On Sundays the place is packed with football fans, and on Saturday nights the party people are out in force. The Scoreboard backs-up the entire bar business with really good bar food, and a big menu.

The appetizers are big here. They include the usual suspects, along with fried pickles, mini corn dogs, homemade potato chips and hickory smoked wings. The wings are meaty and well tended, with a bunch of sauces to choose from.

The smoker is used often for Scoreboard items. They have a wide-array of barbecue, ribs turkey and brisket. The smoke is rather light and while everything is good, there may be better items on the menu.

Burgers are a staple here, and the Scoreboard chefs usually get it just right. If you order medium rare that’s what you get. There’s enough grease to make it tasty, and you can choose from 20 different toppings. Overall the sandwich menu is pretty big. Make sure you try the Bratwurst, which is a nod to the Packer fans that fill the place on Sundays. There is so much on the menu; you have to keep trying things to find the best. The Southbend Steak Sandwich rates right up near the top. It’s tender, marinated pieces of steak, perfectly grilled and then smothered in cheeses of your choice. That caloric masterpiece is nestled in a chewy, soft hoagie bun. The result is awesome.
The pizzas are okay, but they sure do come with some interesting toppings, including all of the smoked meats, and even one version the “Titan” which piles them all on the pie.

If you feel like trying to stay healthy while watching football, you can order from a variety of salads. In fact the Veggie Eater manages to eat here fairly happily each week, although she is stuck in a rut of veggie nachos lately. Other veggie items include fried mushrooms, mozzarella stuffed breadsticks and potato skins. Just remember some of these usually come with meat, but if you order veggie they’ll usually get it right.

The service is bustling for game days. You can expect some delays, but that’s to be expected with big crowds. At other times the service is fast. No matter what the business the servers are always friendly.
Update 8/11/08: The Scoreboard has jumped into the Hot Chicken game. They just started serving Hot Chicken, which for the uninitiated is super-spicy fried chicken, a Nashville original. I had the medium, and found crisp skin, a nice tang, good flavor and a solid burn. The medium is about the same heat level as Prince's medium. And the two share many other similarities in style. Scoreboard serves a meaty chicken quarter on a piece of white bread and topped with pickle slices.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Thai Taste


Nashville Restaurants and Food
Thai Taste
395 Haywood Lane
Nashville
615-834-9250


The Nolensville Road restaurant scene continues to expand into a true avenue of the world, adding Thai to the many ethnic choices available. Thai Taste is on Haywood Lane, perched on a hill just off Nolensville Road. It’s not much from the outside. As for the interior, the owners have managed to turn a cinder block bunker into a fairly stylish restaurant.

They have a wide reaching menu of Thai favorites and specialties that focus on seafood. You can have many orders in mild, medium or hot. This is always a tough choice until you know the chef’s spice scale. We’ve had Thai that blows up in your mouth on the medium scale, and supposedly hot food where you can barely taste the heat. The Meat Eater tends towards safe rather than sorry, so we ordered medium. It had a little bit of heat, but we ended up wishing we had ordered hot.

Several entrees come with little house salads. At first this seemed to be a disappointing and boring lettuce and tomato toss. However, the honey based dressing featured the great Thai use of sweet and tangy, turning the salad into a nice surprise.

The Tomka Kai is a well balanced coconut milk based soup, featuring thick pieces of lemon grass for flavor and chunks of chicken. Thai soups are usually so delicate and tasty that they can be the highlight of a dinner. This soup was no exception, and had just a little bit of chili pepper for kick.

The Veggie Eater immediately eyed the Pophia Sod spring rolls, rolled up in light rice paper and filled with egg, tofu, rice noodles and a tamarind sauce for dipping. They were good, perhaps not great, but a solid offering.

Pad Thai is always on our order at a Thai restaurant. We’re happy to report this one is a wet, saucy and flavorful mix of rice noodles and all the favorites: egg, bean sprouts and peanuts. There’s plenty of peanuty flavor and that’s important in a Pad Thai. Plenty of sauce is also critical for us and this proved to be a winner.

We also ordered up Kao Pad fried rice with shrimp. It had a decent flavor and a subtle heat. The shrimp was straight out of the cooker, and didn’t have much taste, so overall the dish was okay.

People have been raving about the curries and we’ll need to sample them next time around. They have a decent list of the usual suspects, including Panaeng and Khaeng Phed. The house specialties feature a number of Red Snapper, Tilapia and duck dishes.

Veggie Eater: I can’t say that my socks were knocked off, but it was a satisfying meal. I really enjoyed the spring rolls; they were wrapped in rice paper, full of veggies, noodles, and tofu. Eric was under whelmed with the spring rolls, but he generally prefers his apps hot and fried. We had the pad Thai with tofu, medium. It wasn’t very spicy, but there are lots of condiments available to zip it up. On a positive note, it is very veggie friendly. Virtually all dishes allow for tofu to be substituted for meat. I’ve yet to find my dream Thai spot in Nashville, but in the mean time, if I’m in this neck of the woods around lunch time, would certainly stop back in.

Meat Eater: This is a good option for Thai on the Southside. Service was quite good and the food was above average. It isn’t the cheapest Thai experience around, but I wouldn’t call it expensive either. We ran up a $35 tab with tax and tip for a big lunch.
Thai Taste on Urbanspoon