Menu items blossom from the chefs' creative whims, and there's a fixed tab of $100 plus tax and gratuity. They'll also whip up liquid pairings for each course for an additional $30.
It's so intriguing I wrote about it in the Scene's Innovations issue earlier this year. And it might very well be the the most ambitious and splashy restaurant ever to launch in Nashville. (To add to the splash, the chefs get to wear custom chefs' coats designed by Manuel.)
Bites is dying of curiosity, but we didn't snag reservations yet. So we're asking you, Bites Nation. If anybody goes tonight, feel free to share afterward in the comments.
After the jump, you can read the opening night press release.
THE CATBIRD SEAT OPENS TODAY, BRINGS BOLD CREATIVITY AND INTERACTIVE DINING TO NASHVILLE
Intimate, open kitchen restaurant concept brings the diner and the chef together to create a new culinary experience
NASHVILLE, TN (October 12, 2011) — A new type of forward dining emerges from restaurateurs Benjamin and Max Goldberg, owners of acclaimed Strategic Hospitality. Led by rising star chefs Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson, The Catbird Seat, an intimate space with 32 seats surrounding a well-appointed kitchen where the chefs will be stationed, opens to the public today. Situated above the renowned Patterson House cocktail bar, The Catbird Seat delivers a fresh take on fine dining by creating culinary adventures.
“I see this new way of dining as being a very up close and personal experience with chefs and diners. It allows us to really interact with guests throughout the meal,” said Anderson. Added Habiger, “Before, our only exchanges were the plates returning to the kitchen. Now we can experience the entire meal with our diners, from the first bite to the last, and there is an enormous amount of satisfaction in that for everyone involved.”
Habiger and Anderson are taking inspiration from the artistic and musical influences of the alternative Nashville scene to create vibrant plates and pairings. Both chefs bring a wealth of knowledge from past experiences at prestigious restaurants such as Noma, Alinea, The Fat Duck and The French Laundry. The Catbird Seat has given the chefs the freedom to develop their creations without constraints, expressed in the form of a seven-course tasting menu. No two evenings are the same, as inspirations could stem from a newly discovered cookbook, a Pixies song, or the memory of a grey day in Copenhagen. Some may experience a progression through modernist cuisine, while others may journey through Old World classics. The Catbird Seat is a vanguard kitchen, producing dishes made from seasonal, fresh ingredients using both new and proven techniques with the utmost creativity.
As a welcoming ingress to the meal, a round of snacks greets diners as they arrive, ranging from Tandoori Chicken Cracklings to a Pine & Tofu Macaroon. Amidst the artful menu, standouts from the sea are highlighted by Grilled “Cat Tails” with Island Creek oysters and lovage, and Rolled Skate with cuttle fish in its own ink, mussels, black radish and black tapioca pearls. Thoughtful entrées are enhanced with unique elements, such as Smoked Pheasant Breast with black garlic, Cheerwine, foie gras and ceps or Lamb with peaches, roasted onion, quatre epice milk, thyme and nasturtium. The culinary journey ends on a sweet note with intriguing flavor combinations like Burnt Pineapple with cherries, vanilla sponge cake and bourbon-oak ice cream.
Guests have the option of choosing a colorful spectrum of beverage pairings to accompany each course along the way, curated by Beverage Director Jane Lopes, formerly of Chicago's The Violet Hour. Lopes’ libation choices are both unexpected and playful, offering guests an educated and eccentric glimpse into the many wonders of wine, beer, cocktails, non alcoholic options and, at times, house-made digestifs, aperitifs, bitters and sodas. As with the dinner menu, guests can expect the unexpected, with constantly evolving offerings that will change daily and remain unlisted.
Named in honor of author James Thurber and sportscaster Red Barber, who coined the phrase, “He’s sitting in the catbird seat”, the restaurant presents a curious setting, created to alter your senses and place the utmost emphasis on the food. With the help of local architect Manuel Zeitlin and interior designer Landy Gardner, design elements reflect the menu’s sense of whimsical elegance. Intrinsic to the experience is the arrival process, in which patrons enter a vertical lobby that highlights depth and scope. Guests then take an elevator that also serves as a rotating gallery for local artists up to the dining room. Upon exiting the elevator, a low-ceilinged hallway with frenzied radicchio and silver bursts lead diners into the calm of the stark dining room. Sleek minimalism dominates the room and features vaulted ceilings sprouting wiry chandeliers in the form of molecule diagrams. Silhouettes of dark rich woods and warm whites frame the kitchen at center stage, surrounded by an audience of 20 seats at the U-shaped bar counter. Two cozy booths, seating six each, flank the dining room with clear views of the culinary show. Every element in the room is designed to focus attention downward to the plate. Recreating the idea of dinner as theater, the room is designed for guests to observe and interact with the chefs — up close and personal — as each course is prepared.
The Catbird Seat, located at 1711 Division Street in Nashville, is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30pm to 10:00pm. The team behind the project has documented and detailed the trials and tribulations of opening via a Facebook page, on Twitter and at the blog. For reservations or more information, please visit thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com.