Much has been written about Husk Nashville — chef Sean Brock's sister outpost to his acclaimed Charleston, S.C., restaurant — and we can expect more. (I'm sure a full-fledged restaurant review will appear before too long.) But as longtime Bites readers know, a First Bite is an initial impression of a restaurant, data gathered in the early weeks before a restaurant can be expected to have its full repertoire in place.
I've visited Husk twice, once for dinner on a Tuesday and once for lunch on a Wednesday, so here's my report. The evening vibe was bright and a bit hectic. (We heard from another diner that both Zac Brown and Darius Rucker were in the house.) Lunch was quieter though still lively, with plenty of sunlight streaming into the dining rooms of the graceful renovated Victorian house and brightening the already anticipatory mood.
Speaking of sunlight, my favorite part of the interior is the large downstairs dining room, with a bank of windows overlooking Husk's garden, which helps supply the ingredients on the locally sourced menu. The decor of the other, smaller rooms was more eclectic, with rustic tables, mirrored walls and modern-art chandeliers cohabiting in a way that seemed to make more sense in daylight than at night.
It's worth describing the structure of the menus I encountered, although both the lunch and dinner menus change daily.
The evening menu is divided between first courses and "supper." On our visit the starters ranged between $9 and $14, and supper entrées were $25 to $28. A table of four, we took the advice of a friend and ordered five first courses to share, and just two entrées, which we also shared. It was plenty of food and allowed us to try a lot of different things.
For more variety within that variety, we enjoyed a vegetarian dinner entrée titled "A Plate of Southern Vegetables." A platter carved from a slice of tree trunk offered up five items: roasted cauliflower in a cauliflower puree, a cold pea soup with mint and thinly sliced radishes, bok choy topped with peanuts, roasted beet with farro, and snap peas. A second vessel, a rustic ceramic bowl, held a sixth dish, grits with tomato broth.
At dinner, that plate was $25, which may seem like a lot for a veggie dish, but at least on a first visit it's a great introduction to Sean Brock's philosophy and enshrinement of fresh Southern-grown vegetables. Other highlights of the dinner included a "Killed Lettuce" salad, with fresh greens grown in Bells Bend in Nashville, lightly topped with a warm pork-laced vinaigrette. Good stuff.
A favorite supper entrée was Carolina grouper with green gumbo and cubes of turnip from Farmer Dave. It was an incredibly thick grouper fillet, cooked through but still moist, topped with the "gumbo" of green veggies and cubes of peppery-tasting turnip. Some diners may conclude that $28 is steep, but since I don't have access to pristine grouper nor the patience to stew up all the vegetables, it was worth it to me. A very memorable dish.
The lunch menu has three categories: snacks (shareable plates like Benton's country ham with pickled okra and soft rolls); a section comprising sandwiches, soup and salads; and lunch-sized entrées.
At lunch the grouper was a smaller North Carolina fillet, cooked over embers and served with Anson Mills farro, spinach, tomato cornmeal gravy and sprinkled with chive blossoms. The price-point was nice at $15, but the smaller fillet was just a touch overcooked. That's probably a glitch that will disappear with practice.
A simple but incredibly flavorful lunch item was chilled tomato soup, made with yellow tomatoes, embered cucumbers and shaved radish. It was a bit pricey at $11, but damn, it was memorable.
To me, that's the operative word. The ideas and execution of Brock, his chef de cuisine Morgan McGlone and their team elevated lunch (and dinner, as well, although dinner in Nashville poses a higher bar) far beyond the ordinary.
Those looking for a dramatic reinvention of the culinary wheel may be disappointed, given that we already have restaurants and chefs that do amazing things with fresh local ingredients.
On the other hand, very few of those chef-driven joints serve dinner, plus lunch or brunch, seven days a week. And in my opinion, the food at Husk was undeniably very good, and likely to only get better.
Bites folks, have any of y'all visited Husk yet? Feel free to share thoughts in the comments.
37 Rutledge St.