Etch, the restaurant Paquette is presiding over in the Encore condominium tower downtown, is scheduled to open sometime in the last week of August.
Both Paquette, who is Etch’s executive chef, and veteran restaurateur Doug Hogrefe of Amerigo, who co-owns Etch with his business partner Paul Schramkowski, say Etch is racing toward the final stretch.
“It’s finally here,” Paquette said with a laugh.
Etch aims to fill a vital niche in the scene south of Broadway (the neighborhood called SoBro) as the area primes for an explosion of diners once the Music City Center is completed next year. Like its neighbor The Southern (the restaurants are located at different corners at Demonbreun Street and Third Avenue South), Etch aims to serve a diverse cohort of tourists, downtown workers, concert patrons and plain old fine-cuisine-loving Nashvillians.
Paquette said one facet of Etch’s fare is that the lunch and dinner menus will be quite different, giving folks an incentive to come by for both meals.
It’s not like Paquette ever has a shortage of menu ideas. The chef who thrived at pioneering Nashville restaurants like The Bound’ry and Cakewalk Cafe, and whose previous restaurant, Zola, was a West End favorite for many years has flexed her skills in a variety of kitchens.
In the break between Zola and Etch, she helped out at various spots, including Miel, and helped craft menus for The Local Taco and the new restaurant Urban Grub in 12South.
As a Culinary Institute of America grad, Paquette’s base is classic French, but she’s perpetually inspired by various exotic flavors.
“I hate the word ‘global,’ ” Paquette said, before conceding that, well, her menu is pretty globally inspired. “I love Moroccan, Spanish, Turkish, Latin. I just put them all in,” she said. “And for the first time I’m putting in some Asian food. I’m pretty excited about that.”
She credits her head cook, Kenji Nakagawa, who she’s worked with as far back as Cakewalk, with helping introduce the Asian flavors.
Of course there will be an emphasis on fresh local produce. “We’re opening with a lot of things that can be adapted to vegetarian,” Paquette said.
Etch’s pastry chef is Meghan Williams, a veteran of Capitol Grille who helped launch the desserts at Urban Grub before departing for Etch.
“I want people to have a nice place to have dinner before the symphony, and after the symphony have a nice dessert” Paquette said, (Etch’s front door faces the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.) “We want people to stop by before and after their events.”
The wide-open kitchen is “the artwork of the restaurant,” Paquette said. “You can see all the equipment. It’s cool.”
Etch is at 301 Demonbreun St. For updates as the late August opening approaches, follow Etch on Facebook. Hogrefe says it’s also wise to keep an eye on Open Table, the site that will provide Etch’s online reservations. “When we’re ready, we’ll just turn it on,” he said.
A version of this story ran in the Food Biz column in this week's issue of The City Paper and online at Nashville Post.