One of the tough things about attending events at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center is timing dinner before the show. Apparently the symphony does not operate on what my friend refers to as "Exit/In Standard Time," i.e. if the showtime in the Scene says 9 p.m., you can leave the house at 10:30 and still not miss any of the headliner. When these classical music folks say the baton drops at 8, you'd best have your butt in your seat five minutes early.
Luckily, there's Arpeggio to help you out. Located in the east lobby of the lower level of the symphony hall, the bistro features a four-course buffet that includes appetizers, a soup station, choice of four entrées and an assortment of desserts. The menu is inventive for a buffet.
A recent visit included a bonus antipasto bar which our dining partners enjoyed noshing on while they waited on us to fight our way through the Christmas parade traffic. (Curse you, John Rich!) Main dishes included a Szechuan sirloin of beef, an excellent Canadian salmon with arugula and lemon butter, a fennel-dusted chicken breast with Parmesan sun-dried tomato polenta and a four cheese ravioli. We sampled all the entrées and found them to be uniformly well-prepared and delicately seasoned. I do have to agree with Brent Rolen's opinion from last year that the vegetarian pasta offering was probably the least impressive of the lot. If vegetarians are able to choose only a quarter of the second-course choices, the option should be outstanding.
The atmosphere is festive as the crowd arrives over the course of an hour, but lines at the buffet stations moved quickly and efficiently. The servers were very attentive to the fact that dishes needed to be cleared quickly before showtime, but we were even able to linger a few moments over coffee and desserts while we paid our bill.
If we had been responsible for scheduling dinner at another restaurant downtown, I can pretty much guarantee that the evening would have been marked by a stressful attempt to throw my credit card at a server followed by a sprint through freezing temperatures to arrive at the Schermerhorn in time to check our coats before Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero kicked off the evening's program.
At $38 per person, Arpeggio is not inexpensive, but the peace of mind it offers made it a bargain in our opinion. We also took advantage of the $18 tour of five 2-ounce glasses of wine suggested to accompany each course. For the most part, they were appropriately paired, moderately priced wines -- and the Ramos Pinto Porto suggested with dessert was a real find. As a bonus, having generous pours preset at the table before we started dining allowed us to enjoy them at our leisure without having to wait for separate visits from a cocktail server.
Arpeggio is open before all concerts in the Nashville Symphony SunTrust Classical, Bank of America Pops and Adams and Reese Jazz Series concerts. The doors open two hours before the performance. Reservations are suggested and can be made by calling 687-6400.