Sunday, August 22, 2010

Korean Taco Joint Opens in Bordeaux

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Peter Chinn’s Korean Barbecue Taco

The Korean barbecue taco just makes sense. Any decent taco is built on flavorful meat and Korean barbecue joints know how to do meat right. Peter Chinn’s is the latest entrant in the Nashville Korean taco race. It’s a tiny take out shack on Clarksville Highway (just south of Rosa Parks) and even in the first weeks of life they’re putting out quality food. Why do we say all this now and before our real review? Get down there people. This location has seen several different restaurants in the last couple of years.

The Korean taco trend started in L.A. in 2008 with Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go. The taco truck set off a statewide stampede. Now you can find Korean taco trucks in cities all up and down the west coast and spreading across the country. The key is well marinated meat and careful attention to the Asian inspired slaw. A couple of Nashville taco joints feature Korean tacos, including Local Taco. As far as I can tell Peter Chinn’s may be the first place in Nashville to actually specialize in Korean tacos.

Chinn’s tacos may not be as dressed up, complex or spicy as the west coast originals, but they are quite good. The spicy pork taco is a standout with a hot-sweet flavor, generously mounded on two corn tortillas. The tacos are topped with an onion, cabbage and carrot based slaw, brought pleasantly to life with what appears to be sesame oil and rice vinegar. The kogi beef short rib is tender, with a little char and a savory mellow flavor. Hell, even the fish sandwich is tasty, with a breading that may be one of the better in town. Did we mention the kimchi quesadilla? And folks, let us relay the best part: $2 per taco and they don’t skimp on the stuffing.

Show the ladies who run the carry-out joint some love and maybe we can keep this one going. We’ll have a full review soon.

Peter Chinn’s Korean Barbecue Taco
2712 Clarksville Pike
Nashville
615-712-8796
www.peterchinns.com
Peter Chinn's Korean BBQ Taco on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Choripan and a Medium Rare Encounter

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Argentina, El Mirador and Nica's News

Spicy, juicy and rich sausage, fresh chimichurri, a thin slice of tomato and dense, chewy bread. This Choripan has it going on at the West Nashville Farmers Market. It's a simple sandwich with every ingredient out of this world. Gitano is the sandwich craftsman for "Cuisine of Buenos Aires", basically a converted hot dog cart. He says the key is cooking the sausages just so. I have to say they may be some of the better sausages I've had in Nashville and Gitano could only tell me that he gets them at the East Nashville Farmers Market. Please dear readers, help me in this quest. What sausage vendor could this be? I would assume they don't sell at the West Nashville Farmers Market. Meanwhile, the Veggie Eater is enjoying an eggplant and tomato sandwich. The finale for both of us to share is a lovely panqueque: a thick crepe covered in dulce de leche and then rolled up with goat cheese. Sweet, creamy and slightly salty all combine for a first class dessert. Talk about  park food. Gitano says he'll be selling his Argentinian sandwiches for the foreseeable future on Saturday's at the West Nashville Farmers Market in Richland Park.

A recent trip to El Mirador showed that the Nolensville Road joint is still serving up quality Mexican food. Steaks can be hit and miss in a Mexican restaurant. I ordered mine medium-rare at El Mirador and was flabbergasted when it actually came out that way. Usually they're well done and pounded flatter than a pancake. The house named El Mirador steak was a tasty, marinated t-bone and reasonably tender given the thin cut. Rolled up in some house made corn tortillas (hot off the press) with some fresh, creamy guacamole and pico de gallo and I had an excellent lunch. The Veggie Eater enjoyed her chile relleno, which came in a Guatemalan style omelet style batter: very light and eggy. They're still doing the little plate of curtido slaw and refried beans as a free starter and the chunks of onion and little bits of pepper give the salsa some serious kick. Speaking of which they don't mess around with the grilled jalapenos. Even the usually spice loving Veggie Eater was impressed by the heat. Here's a link to the previous review:

http://nashvillerestaurants.blogspot.com/2009/07/el-mirador.html

El Mirador was a fine back up plan after we found that Nica's Restaurant, the new Nicaraguan place on McCall Street, has succumbed to some sort of problem. There is an eviction notice on the door and neighbors tell us the restaurant is history. We wish the kind ladies who ran the place the best of luck.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

La Antigua

Nashville Restaurants and Food
La Antigua
2600 Grandview Ave.
Nashville
615-589-1029

Update 11/11: This restaurant has closed.

Central American food is a mish mash of regional specialties and shared cuisine. You might find the same dish in four different countries and have it prepared in seven different ways. That’s why restaurants like La Antigua are a good thing for the Nashville food scene: they allow us to explore.

The unassuming building is just off Nolensville Road and has housed a number of different restaurants, including a Sylvan Park branch. The interior is painted atomic yellow and vivid red for a wake up and smell the coffee effect. There is a mellow and friendly vibe in the room. One day they might have Honduran folk music on the stereo and on the next day a TV show from El Salvador.

They start you off with thick and crispy house made tortilla chips topped with a drizzle of light salsa and grated farmer’s cheese. It’s a welcome twist from the usual chips and salsa.

The owners speak English and are more than happy to describe each dish to you. The menu is short and oriented around chicken and beef dishes. They proudly point out the national origin of each dish. Most are from Guatemala and Honduras. There is not much here for the vegetarian, which is a shame since many of the sauces would lend themselves well to veggie fare. Pollo en pipian is the classic chicken in pumpkin seed sauce. The nutty sauce is savory and understated. You won’t find big bold flavors with this cuisine. There is a laid back taste in just about everything. Other menu items include tamales, chuchitos (a favorite Guatemalan type of tamale with pork or beef), hilachas (shredded beef in tomato sauce), valeadas (Honduran burrito, folded with beans) and tajaditas (sweet plantains).

They seem to be hunting around for new ways to pull people in. The latest venture is the lunch buffet. One early lunch visit found three entrees, a bunch of sides and salad fixings. The Guatemalan chile relleno features a whipped, omelet-like batter, a tangy chile and ground beef for a surprising and flavorful take on the Latin standard. Chicken in a tomato and peanut sauce is comforting and well suited to the buffet line. The boiled chicken is simple and well cooked. Pico de gallo is fresh and zesty. Thick black bean frijoles and fluffy rice are a tasteful, if unremarkable, accompaniment on the line. One worrisome item was spaghetti and meatballs. I had hoped these might be done Latin style and found them generic and not worthy of a position in the line-up. I’m not sure if this is a nod to the less adventurous crowd. I hope not. The Guatemalan and Honduran dishes are plenty welcoming. Dessert item for the day was a dense Guatemalan sweetbread- and in the usual Latin style not really sweet at all.

La Antigua opens early for breakfast and keeps the huevos and strong coffee going through lunch. The big plates of eggs and thick ham looked good for breakfast. They’re served with hunks of cheese on the side and fresh baked bread. They do baking in house and on some days have a number of Latin-style pastries available.

La Antigua is a refreshing change of pace. I paid $11 with tax and tip on one visit and $14 with tax and tip on another.
La Antigua on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nashville Farmers Market Restaurants Back Open

It was a busy Saturday at the Nashville Farmers Market and for the first time in a long time you could combine shopping with lunch. Some of the market house restaurants finally reopened last week. There's still plenty of work to be done in flood recovery, but it's good to see signs of life.

Nooleys, Chicago Style Gyros, B and C Market and El Burrito Mexicano are all back in business. We stopped by Swagruha Indian to find plenty of happy customers in line. As usual they were serving up really good and rather spicy Southern Indian dishes and considering that they let you sample just about everything they have, it has to be one of the best quality food bargains in the city. The NFM Facebook page says that Jamaicaway just opened. Fleur de Lis snowball shaved ice is operating out of a mobile unit in one of the sheds. Swett's leaves a big hole in the market house and they are not returning.

There is good news in regards to the International market: they appear to be getting closer to having the new location further inside the market house up and running. It looks like it will have a welcome amount of space. Although it was kind of fun squeezing down the claustrophobic aisles looking for an unusual chutney or spicy ajvar.

The folks at Garrett Farms tell us that they are moving their Angus beef operation inside the market house in the old International Market location. They are currently selling from seven freezers in the main shed. We picked up some stew meat and bacon for Peru night at our house (coriander beef stew and papas a la huancaina).

The main shed was busy and spilling out into the second shed with the addition of Delvin Farms and a new meat purveyor from Kentucky called Emerald Glen Farm.

The Farmers Market will have an event on Friday, August 13 at 10:45am to celebrate the re-opening with free samples and giveaways. Mayor Karl Dean will be on hand and Mr. Mayor we'd recommend the goat curry from Swagruha, carnitas at El Burrito, wings from B and C, a po-boy from Nooleys and falafel at Chicago Style, all of which will then of course require a snowball for dessert.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sky Blue Café

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Sky Blue Café
700 Fatherland Street
Nashville
615-770-7097
www.skybluecoffee.com

A quiet sidewalk table in the shade. A cozy dining room buzzing with diners at brunch. The Sky Blue Café has plenty of good things going for it and the second generation of the business appears to be working well. You may remember this breakfast and lunch spot from the positive review we gave a couple of years ago. The owners sold the place after a divorce. Employee Chad Stuible took over the restaurant last March and now owns and operates the joint with his soon- to- be wife, Mikah Wyman. The team has stripped down the menu. You won’t find as many surprises and it’s a short list of items. They do spice up that minimal menu with creative specials each day. For example: take a bite of the chorizo-dilla and find zingy and robust house-made chorizo sandwiched in between super-crisp spinach tortillas. Colby-jack, a rainbow assortment of peppers and onions make this a stand-out quesadilla. Home fries are nicely herbed and supremely tender quarters of potato.

There is no shtick or gimmicks here, just breakfast and lunch served in a friendly atmosphere. Beck and Patsy Cline co-mingle on the stereo. There’s a wait for seating most weekend mornings. The tables tend to turn quickly and it’s not a bad thing reading the newspaper on the sidewalk. They do need some benches or something to make that wait easier.

Lunch brings a garlic burger to the table. The kitchen nails medium-rare and the patty is exceptionally juicy. The garlic bits literally pop out of the beef as you eat. Spring greens, tomato and mild jalapenos round out a solid sandwich. The potato salad on the side shows great promise with capers studding the little dish. Unfortunately they are the only things zipping up this rather bland rendition.

So, we take a few stabs at the Veggie Eater’s plate and find a delicious sweet potato side: it’s all potato with a brush of brown sugar and pecans for a great twist on the classic southern preparation.

Veggie Eater: I opted for the Florentine Benedict for my breakfast visit. The eggs were precisely poached and sitting atop fresh sautéed spinach and grilled tomatoes. The hollandaise was lemony. The acidity of the tomatoes was a nice compliment and offset the rich sauce. On my second visit, I opted for lunch and the Portabella melt. The Portabella was marinated in a pleasant balsamic sauce turning the big mushroom tender and juicy. A slice of Swiss was melted onto the fungus. The bun (soft and fresh) was slathered in a Pesto Aioli. The sandwich was a wonderful combination of slightly sweet, slightly acidic, and savory. The sweet potato casserole was accented by pecan halves sprinkled among the fluffy potatoes and topped with brown sugar, which provided a crispy, caramelized top. Sweetened sweet potatoes generally tend to annoy me, but these were actually quite good. It’s a bit pricey both for breakfast and sandwich items, but we found both to be well prepared. I like being able to make a spur of the moment decision about whether I want breakfast or lunch; you don’t have to be boxed in here as breakfast is served all day. There are quite a few ovo-lacto veggie options. If you don’t have a newspaper to peruse during the wait for your table, they still have the boxes of Trivial Pursuit cards available to provide entertainment.

Meat Eater: A watermelon agua fresca or other daily concoction whipped up by Mikah could help beat the heat. A mimosa helps take the edge off the wait. They serve Drew’s Brews coffee in mugs and Bagel Face bagels as long as they last. The outdoor tables offer some of the better alfresco dining in the city. We love this leafy East Nashville neighborhood and the towering sunflowers across the street are a breakfast bonus.

We paid $27 with tax and tip for lunch, and $26 with tax and tip for breakfast.
Sky Blue Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Secret is Our Readers

Everyone asks how we find out about so many new and interesting restaurants in the Nashville area. We have several top-secret methods, but quite frankly the best one only requires us checking the inbox. Our readers provide the best tips of all.

The latest comes from several folks who said we needed to check out La Esquina pupuseria at 1326 Antioch Pike (just south of Harding and Antioch). It doesn't look like much from the outside. Inside is a teeny, tiny little dining room and really nice women cooking up platefuls of gooey cheese-filled pupusas, Salvadoran chicken, casamiento black beans and rice, and crema and corn tamales. We'll blow the review for one recommendation: these are some of the best fried plantains we've had in Nashville.

Best of all they have what we like to call "Las Americas" pricing. Those pupsas are about $2 each and the tamales are $1.50.

We have a number of other reader inspired restaurant visits coming up soon. What's your favorite spot, the joint that is just begging for some attention? E-mail us your tips at nashvillerestaurants@yahoo.com

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fogatas

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Fogatas
5560 Nolensville Pike
Nashville
615-331-6281

Round up the family and head out- it’s time for Sunday lunch. Fogatas Mexican restaurant is bringing those families in with groups of eight and ten. It’s a leisurely affair, as the food comes out when it’s ready, and some people might spend time watching others eat. Why the wait? Perhaps it’s the homemade corn tortillas, and some authentic dishes that might take more time to prepare. Fogatas does an admirable job of picking up where long time favorite El Manjar left off. In fact, the new owners made the wise decision to keep much of the El Manjar menu.

So, what has changed? Most importantly the space: they opened up a wall to add a new, well air conditioned dining room next to the sunny, and often warm, original. The staff keeps things moving as they tackle the lunch rush. The first item to arrive had us worried. The house salsa is watery and lifeless. Luckily, bottles of salsa verde and rojo soon appeared and our spirits were buoyed. The verde is smoky, creamy, spicy and supremely tasty. The rojo has a decent kick. It’s the verde sauce though, that we ate with our chips. The original salsa sat to the side. An order of queso dip was also a little bland. A bit of the spicy rojo brought it up to speed.

Much of the menu is what we here in the states might call authentic Mexican. They do have a few items you don’t see everywhere in Nashville, such as Pambazo (adobe bread and sausage) and Higado Encebollado (liver and onions). Mole poblano is featured in a couple of dishes and not just as a special. Tlacoyos are thick tortillas stuffed with beans and served with grilled nopales cactus. The red, spicy beans contrast with the tangy green salsa. The nopales are served to the side. The grill brings out an excellent flavor. Queso and sour cream round it out for a solid entrée. Zincronizada are tortillas grilled with ham and cheese. It’s a simple dish that hits the spot. The guacamole sauce is light, herby and tastes fresh.

The corn tortillas and the masa rounds for gorditas are made in house. Apparently the flour tortillas come from somewhere else. Thrown on the grill those gorditas have a nice brown and char. The al pastor (seasoned pork) inside is decent and the crumbled queso fresco is a good pairing. The corn tortillas shine with the tacos. The lengua (tongue) had great flavor and a tender texture. The asada (steak) was not as successful, lacking any sign of marinade or seasoning.

Veggie Eater: There’s not a vegetarian section on the menu here, but if you look around you will find a few veggie friendly items. On my first go round, I opted for my one of my all time faves, Enchiladas de Mole. The mole is a smoky, sweet concoction made from roasted Poblanos. The corn tortillas are homemade and almost crepe like in their consistency. They come stuffed with cheese. The next time out of the gate, I asked the waitress for her suggestion. She indicated they could do a veggie burrito for me with grilled veggies. It’s a standard flour burrito chock full of cauliflower, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots. The veggies were well seasoned. The burrito was topped with queso sauce. I opted for my beans and rice on the side, so that they didn’t glop up my veggies. I would actually make a point to drive to south Nashville just to eat here. My mom will be visiting in August and we’ve already planned a tentative lunch date here.

Meat Eater: There were a few misses along with the many hits. Overall, Fogatas is a welcome addition to the Nolensville Road crowd. The name means campfire and I would imagine that brings to mind a place to bring the entire family. Anyone could do that here and feel quite comfortable. Most of the staff speaks good English.

The restaurant is a bit hard to find. It’s in a strip mall tucked away next to the Lowe’s store at Old Hickory Blvd and Nolensville Road. We paid $26 with tax and tip for one visit and $22 on another visit.
Fogatas on Urbanspoon