Wednesday, March 24, 2010

High-Powered Team at Soon-to-Open Holland House

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 8:24 AM

Holland House, the upcoming restaurant and cocktail spot, has lined up a pretty impressive team as it prepares to open on West Eastland Avenue in East Nashville by the end of the month.

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Terry Raley, a veteran of Ombi (both as bartender and briefly as owner), created the concept and has recruited not only Christian Dye (formerly of Miro District and Watermark) as executive chef, but he's also hired Laura Wilson, the popular ex-chef of Ombi and Wild Iris, to pitch in on kitchen duties, as well.

The official name of the business is Holland House Bar and Refuge. The "Holland" part is in honor of Raley's business partner in the venture, Cees Brinkman, who's from the Netherlands. Raley calls the menu "global bar food, or gastropub, but with plenty of accessible items." He's also putting an emphasis on artisan cocktails, with house-made bitters and other special ingredients. He says Holland House will offer 50 different cocktails, some flaming and spectacular.

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Asked to describe her role in the restaurant, Wilson says "fairy godmother ... without the chiffon." Pressed to elaborate, she says, "I want to be the nuts-and-bolts support staff. I've opened a lot of restaurants, so I'm helping with that. I'm helping Christian make his farmer contacts, too."

Wilson's working hectic hours to help launch Holland House (when reached by phone, she was on her way to buy dinner plates), but once the restaurant is open, she plans to scale down, working the line in the kitchen four or so days a week. Since unlike at Ombi, she's not the top chef, she hopes to be able to work a regular schedule that will allow her to spend time with her 18-month-old son, Porter Howell Wilson.

"It's very freeing," she says of her role. "It strips away the minutiae. It's what I really, really love about the business -- cooking." And while she's had some creative input, the menu is completely the work of her new colleague, Christian Dye.

She has a lot of praise for Dye. "I sat down with him and his food ideas were so strong, his food sensibilities are so honed," she says. "He has a really artful palate, and he tries things I've never seen before -- and they work."

Asked to name one of her favorite items on the menu, she mentions a dish of roasted oysters with bacon-fat breadcrumbs and Herbsaint, a famous anise-flavored liqueur native to New Orleans. "I love Herbsaint ... and New Orleans," she says (referring to the city where she worked for several years before Nashville).

Wilson's also excited about an entrée of roasted game hen with homemade black pepper dumplings. But she points out that because Holland House aims to work with seasonal produce, it's hard to pin down future menus.

It's also hard to pin down the restaurant's exact opening day, though Raley says it will be by the end of the month, and Wilson says they'll probably be holding some dinners very soon. "We'll probably work out the kinks on our dearest friends," she says, laughing.

Holland House is at 935 W. Eastland (at the corner of McFerrin Avenue and Cleveland Street).

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