Nashville Restaurants and Food
5432 Clarksville Hwy
Up into the hills of Paradise Ridge and Whites Creek for French cuisine; it sounds romantic and inside the Chelsea Bistro you’ll find a tasteful and subdued décor with a few French countryside accents to set the theme of the restaurant. It’s would be easy to fixate on the location of Chelsea Bistro, brought to life by owners Bascha Satin and her son Josh Rew. An upscale restaurant of this sort is a first for the Joelton/Whites Creek area, at least in the 10 years we have lived here. It’s also only a 25 minute drive from downtown Nashville, so really not such a stretch.
The cozy bar turns out a short list of garden-inspired cocktails with sweet flourish. Gin sangria is an artful turn. Lemon, rosemary syrup and vodka are some of the sunny ingredients combined for good effect. You can opt for less sugary fare. A special request for a Sazerac is replied with a well-balanced drink, although the liquor selection is a bit limited, meaning Woodford substituting for rye whiskey. The wine selection is also limited, and yet budget conscious.
Executive Chef Garrett Pittler keeps the menu simple. The broth in the French onion soup is deep and rich. The Mornay sauce blanketing a crispy and classic Croque-Monsieur works perfectly and pairs well with rosemary ham for a sublime open-faced sandwich. Herbed fries are thin, long and crispy. They're served with addictive mustard-truffle aioli. They charge $4 for a bread basket, but it's stuffed with several varieties of hearty Silke's breads and three different butter treats. It's well-worth the money.
A goat cheese tart on another outing is a creamy, luscious treat, highlighted by caramelized onions and accented with dressed arugula. The meat and potatoes menu option on this evening is stewed brisket over potato croquettes. The beef works well enough- the tomato sauce is excellent. The tasty croquettes don’t fare as well, quickly becoming soggy under the stew. It’s still a comforting and hearty dish worthy of the countryside. These are the themes that Pittler keeps returning to: garden, country, hearty and classic. They are themes that work well out in the rural landscape of Northern Davidson County. Other menu items include more bistro classics, such as steak frites and the obligatory house burger.
It’s a relaxed place and we were happy to see families visiting, the kids drawing with crayons on the white paper table coverings.
Veggie Eater: The difficulty with a French country-themed restaurant is a menu heavy on the meats/seafood items, and so it is with Chelsea Bistro. There are enough items to piece together a meal or two that would be veggie friendly. The goat cheese tart is lovely, but seems a little redundant with the beet and goat cheese salad (although also well executed with my favorite green, arugula, and a snappy sherry vinaigrette). The Silke’s bread basket has all sorts of hearty European breads and is served with homemade butter spreads (beware- some of the spreads include meat ingredients, so pay attention). I’m sure the Parisian gnocchi could be made sans prawns, but if you are like me, you can simply pass those over to the carnivore at your table and enjoy the fluffy pillows of dough bathed in peas, carrots, and a béchamel made of gruyere. The only true veggie friendly entrée is the ratatouille. The ingredients come straight from the yard behind the restaurant, as Garrett Pittler proudly showed us before the restaurant opening. Plump, purple eggplants, tomatoes, and a variety of squash are chopped into chunks and allowed to season the broth for this hearty summer stew. On the night I had mine, I found the mixture to be over seasoned with salt, enough to cause me to pause mid-bite. Meat Eater is a more generous user of salt, so I offered him a taste to see if it was just buds off-nope, he agreed, it was too salty. That’s a shame, because underneath, you could almost taste the summer pouring out of the vegetables. Although this has a Whites Creek address, everyone at the top of the hill recognizes this as Joelton. It’s nice to be able to go out for a special occasion and not have to go into Nashville to do it. I’ll happily accompany spouse and friends for future occasions, contentedly sipping a garden influenced cocktail and cobbling together a veggie friendly meal (there’s a cheese plate still to sample!). As Meat Eater said, who knew 10 years ago when we moved here that we’d be watching the Icelandic rock band Sigur Ros surrounded by woods at Fontanel and eating French food, all in our backyard. Vive la Joelton!
Meat Eater: There are two questions about whether the Chelsea Bistro can make a go of it. The first is whether folks will visit from Nashville. The food is worth the drive and it’s a pretty trip at that. The second issue is the price point. We clocked in at $96 with tax tip and drinks on one visit and $98 on another. Sure, we have a couple of cocktails each and you could have a nice meal at Chelsea Bistro for much cheaper. However, the question is whether locals will pay that kind of money. Hopefully so. We’re rooting for this place. Northwest Davidson needs a special occasion/ romantic dinner restaurant. Chelsea Bistro fits the bill perfectly. We’ll be back.