Sunday, August 2, 2009

Past Perfect

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Past Perfect
123 3rd Avenue South

Update 8/14: This restaurant has closed.

It doesn’t take much to get us out of the house on a weekend morning. Brunch and a Bloody Mary bar? We’re there, especially when it’s someplace you don’t normally go for brunch: downtown Nashville. So, there we are, strolling down Second Avenue as the tourists take snaps in front of the Wildhorse. It’s a warm summer weekend and the Kiwanis club, some 5,000 members, is in town for a convention. We don’t have to worry about crowds where we’re going, though; it’s just off Broadway on Third Avenue. Past Perfect has done an amazing job surviving in this sleepy little stretch. If they can keep up the good work new business will most likely be soon to follow. They are in the shadow of two new high rise glass towers, and just across the street from the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
We step from the blinding, hot sidewalk into a cool, dark interior. The decor at Past Perfect is not your usual downtown vibe. There’s nothing honky tonk about this place. It has a gothic, funky, 1800’s, New Orleans type of feel. A big picture of Abe Lincoln is surrounded by an antique American flag and dried flowers. Black iron candelabras rise up in a corner and a stags head looms from the wall. It’s quite the accent for the hip, sleek bar
Liquor infusions are the star attractions at Past Perfect these days. You can choose from a long list of unusual vodka infusions for the Bloody Mary bar, including banana, blueberry, hot pepper, olive, and coconut. I chose lemon and find it full of citrusy flavor. That goes well with a Bloody Mary. The bar itself isn’t much, just a couple of mixes to choose from, but they do have about a dozen interesting hot sauces, Worcestershire, horseradish, olives and even sour cream and cheese. It’s a solid Bloody Mary and for $5 not a bad deal considering the fancied up vodka.
The brunch menu proved to be a bit small. There are just five items: steak Benedict, eggs Chesapeake, French toast, biscuits and gravy and the Sunrise Scramble. The aforementioned item has bacon, sausage and three cheese scrambled up with cream and eggs.
Eggs Chesapeake put crab cakes at the center of the traditional Benedict. It’s a nicely plated dish, with everything carefully stacked and pretty. The first bite reveals perfectly cooked runny eggs, and a nice hollandaise sauce. The amount of sauce is a little skimpy and it’s lacking the lemon tang that makes hollandaise sauce go so well with eggs. The crab cakes are tasty and perhaps a bit gummy. There seems to be a bit too much binder here and perhaps not enough cooking. The roasted red pepper at the bottom of the stack provides a surprising pop and proves to be the hit of the dish. The hash brown casserole is a good side: crispy cheese on top and creamy potatoes underneath.
While there isn’t anything vegetarian friendly on the brunch menu the helpful staff is more than willing to accommodate. In this case that meant getting a lunch menu out for the Veggie Eater. Lunch ranges from Bison burgers, and classic sandwiches, to wraps and pasta. Steaks, tuna and meat loaf round out the line-up.
Veggie Eater: First of all, the bartender was cute as a bug…when I queried about veggie friendly items, his first question was “What kind of a vegetarian are you?” Bonus points. Then he stated they would happily cater to my veggie whim. He suggested the Hippy Pasta and I was happy to oblige. It consists of penne, water chestnuts, slivered and slightly cooked carrots, sliced onions (also just slightly cooked), baby corn, small chunks of tomato, and roasted broccoli. This was topped with what is billed as a spicy pesto Alfredo. Loved the textures of the various veggies. The Alfredo was not terribly spicy, but was comforting. My 2 quibbles are that the Alfredo was not seasoned enough; I am not normally a salter, but found myself adding a few shakes just to bring up the flavors in the Alfredo. As any cook knows, you really need to season during the cooking process and not after the fact, because after the fact, the saltiness is too assertive. My other quibble is that the plate was garnished with dried parsley. Although it adds color, it adds no flavor. Freshly minced parsley would have added the color and would have added depth to the Alfredo flavor. Although a bit pricey for a lunch ($11.95), I did have enough for my coveted leftovers. As I left, I was thinking longingly about the Past Perfect Plate…next time. I was particularly enamored with the giant size Lincoln portrait lovingly adorned with flag and flowers; clearly a statement being made.

Meat Eater: The prices do stand-out as being a bit high for downtown. Brunch items are $9.99 and lunch pastas about $12.95. Sandwiches run from $8-$12. But they’re trying to do something different at Past Perfect and the prices would be reasonable for the West Side. Past Perfect offers many happy hour specials, like half priced drafts and infused cocktails. A few of those, combined with the fun Past Perfect Plate (cheese, hummus, olive tapenade etc) is a good start for a night out. We have enjoyed that particular combo on a couple of occasions. Downtown will need more places like Past Perfect, especially if the condo business starts to pick up again. We paid $45 for brunch, a few beers and a Bloody Mary.
Past Perfect on Urbanspoon