In my day job, I occasionally get the chance to go to a nice meal with colleagues to hear a presentation on a product — which is, of course, comped by the product’s company. Even when I was in college, I was working part-time and was lucky enough to be invited along to a lot of these dinners, which made it the best gig for a hungry college student (even though I was also working at Provence and indulging daily in artisan cheeses and the most perfect coconut macaroons).
Back in the day, we were allowed to eat and drink with reckless abandon. There was little interruption about the product or "educational opportunity." Moral or not, these dinners afforded me the ability to try lots of restaurants that would have been outside of my sad student loan budget.
Since my college days, the rules have changed, and these companies aren’t allowed to take us out on a weekly basis just to hang out and drink — something I happen to agree with. (My appetite was a little disappointed, though.) When I do go to one of these now, there is typically an hour-long presentation, during which we also get to eat and drink. To avoid disruption during the presentation, I presume, the meal is usually ordered from a smaller menu, with two to three entree options and two or three wine options.
Most of these dinners are actually at really nice restaurants. But when you're in a group of 10 to 30 people, the dinners can end up feeling a little banquet-ish. The salads seem like they have been sitting out for hours, your steak isn’t (ever!) cooked the way you requested, the dessert seems like an afterthought. It is hardly ever anything like a “real” meal at one of these establishments, where you get personal service, a full view of the menu, and a freshly prepared plate.
However, I am happy to report that there is a place in town that has perfected this sort of group-presentation meal ...
... and that is Kayne Prime.
I dined there recently and enjoyed what was one of the best meals I have had in some time, group-presentation-style or otherwise. Our fantastic server offered us four wine options and a full beer menu, then proceeded to bring out multiple large plates of the first course: a way-above-par house chopped salad with avocado and watermelon, and a black-olive Caesar with black-olive dressing, which we all agreed we could have licked off the plate.
The large plates of the salads were scattered about the long table in the Union Room, a beautiful space where Radius 10’s patio [RIP] used to be. It boasts a great view of Union Station at sunset. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really don’t like salad that much — but I went back for second helpings of both of these beauties. It really made me wish for a lunch menu at Kayne Prime where I could come every day and eat two servings of each of those salads (think about it, Kayne!).
We then had our choice of four generous entrees, of which I shared the salmon and filet, which were both cooked to perfection. The salmon was probably the best cut of fish I’ve ever had in Nashville. Desserts were served like the appetizers, multiple portions scattered across the table. The banana bread pudding was rich and delicious, but my whole group was dazzled by the milk chocolate cremoso. This was when everyone at the table really started giving each other wide-eyed looks like, “Is this for real?”
See, cremoso usually has a soft pudding texture. But this was scooped like ice cream and had a silky gelato/meringue texture, without being frozen. It was paired with dulce de leche, sea salt, and my favorite: unfiltered olive oil, which downplayed the sweetness with a savory-earthy finish.
This was actually one of the best meals I have had in a long time — let alone at a sit-down-meeting dinner, where I have come to expect rubber chicken and lukewarm sides. The food and the service have definitely won me over, and I’m hoping to get back to Kayne Prime on my own as soon as possible. And if anyone knows of another Nashville restaurant that handles corporate/group dinners with this kind of flair, by all means share.