Nashville Restaurants and Food
1888 Eastland Avenue
A food experience is always better when the people working in the restaurant are enjoying themselves. That’s the vibe at Silly Goose in East Nashville. It’s clear from the friendly chatter that Chef Roderick Bailey and his staff are having a fine time. It sets the tone for a fantastic lunch at one of the best new casual dining spots in Nashville.
The bright dining room is bathed in sunshine. Jazz is bopping on the stereo and the place is clinking with the sound of happy diners. Heck, even the kids at the table next door are in a good mood as they munch on wraps with mom and dad. It’s a small space, with only four tables and a counter. Still, it feels airy thanks to tall ceilings. You can watch Bailey at work in the open kitchen, blending beets and laughing with the customers.
There is a big emphasis on local providers and quality ingredients. Take the local farmer’s plate starter: tart apples, clover honey, sharp but silky cheddar, crisp arugula, ultra creamy blue Gouda and decadent goat cheese chevre with red pepper aioli. It’s a well prepared cheese plate that would be at home in a more expensive restaurant. And that’s the theme for everything at Silly Goose: well executed and thoughtful cuisine at a moderate price.
There are inventive twists at every turn. Couscous is a major feature, one of several things that made us pause when we first saw the menu online. We love couscous, but several couscous based entrees on one menu? It works. Take the Mexico City: The plate arrives so artfully arranged you hesitate for just a moment, enjoying the view, before dipping a spoon to sample the various sauces swirled around the slices of grilled chicken. An ancho chile reduction provides an earthy balance to the sweeter red pepper reduction. Bits of that luscious goat cheese dot the plate (they serve Noble Springs chevre from Franklin). The red chili couscous stack surprises at first bite: it’s cold. You take another bite and understand: everything on the plate has a foil; the ancho and the sweet pepper, the warm chicken and the chilled couscous. There are many tastes on the plate and each designed to play with the others.
The sandwiches are a bit more traditional in design, though still packed with flavor. The T-Bird pairs roast beef with the blue Gouda. Red pepper aioli, watercress and red onion bring it all alive on top of sesame semolina sourdough (the breads are from Provence). The crispy bread and tender beef make for a great sandwich. The wraps and sandwiches come with a salad - tender greens dressed in balsamic - and herbed couscous. That version of the Moroccan staple is warm, light and lemony.
Veggie Eater: I noticed on our first visit that there seemed to be few veggie only menu items. There are salads (granted, really innovative ones) and one veggie friendly sandwich. What I really wanted was the couscous, none of which are completely meat free. After a few queries with the waitress (delightful), I opted for the Sicilian couscous, with the capicola on the side for the Meat Eater. It was phenomenal. This is not a dish for the faint hearted. Whole wheat couscous is molded in the center of the plate, topped with many distinctive flavors: roasted peppers, blue Gouda (God bless Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese from Kentucky), Kalamata olives, basil, pines nuts. This is then topped with an herbed olive oil, balsamic reduction syrup, and a roasted red pepper reduction. Every bite was a symphony of my most favorite flavors. This visit ended with beet and honey ice cream sample. We simply were not going to be allowed to leave without a try and it was surprisingly tasty; very earthy and comforting.
Continuing on the beet theme (they seem to have them everywhere here; they are in season locally), I opted for the roasted beet salad special on our second visit. This was a concoction of Delvin Farm’s (College Grove, TN) mesclun greens, spiced walnuts (coriander, cumin, cinnamon), roasted beets, more of Kenny’s blue Gouda, caramelized onions, topped with a dressing made from the juices of the roasted beets. This was then served with slices of rosemary flat bread. Local ingredients, fabulous salad. Chef Bailey was ever present during both visits and eager to disclose his ingredients, suppliers, techniques. He practically beams with pride, and rightfully so. I did ask him about the lack of veggie only items on the menu. He notes that the new veggie restaurant, Wild Cow, is slated to open in the very near future around the corner from Silly Goose. It was a conscious decision not to infringe on their target menu and population. However, he notes a new menu is forthcoming with revamped items on the menu and added veggie options (the salad mentioned above and an eggplant sandwich). He also notes he is more than happy to wing it for any special requests that come through the door; he likes the culinary challenge. The second visit ended with homemade espresso ice cream; more subtle than Haagen Dazs and with a delicate flavor that comes from orange zest. Despite few dedicated veggie items on the menu, I will happily explore specials, substitutions, and subtractions as I have no doubt that whatever version comes out will be worth it.
Meat Eater: Get some of the eye opening limeade to start your meal and be sure to check out the other juices, all pressed and squeezed on site, including beet-apple ginger and red pepper carrot. The prices here are moderate and a real bargain considering the quality of food. The couscous entrees range from $8-$9.50 and the sandwiches and wraps $8 to $8.50. The Silly Goose will probably be a regular stop for us. Fun, inventive and delicious is a winning combination. We paid $42 with tax and tip for two entrees, drinks and the cheese plate. On another visit we paid $35 with tax and tip for two entrees and desert.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Nashville Restaurants and Food