Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The 404 Kitchen: This Week's Dining Review

Posted By on Wed, Nov 27, 2013 at 12:06 PM

In this week's print edition of the Scene I reviewed The 404 Kitchen. Chef Matt Bolus — formerly the sous at Flyte and the chef at Watermark — has put together an extremely impressive restaurant wedged inside a shipping container stuck onto the front of an upcoming boutique hotel.

A couple of things that didn't make the final piece ...

— I'm fascinated by Bolus' Italian outlook on food. When he calls his dishes "uncomplicated," what he's talking about is a highly technical, yet non-French way of approaching a menu. There are few if any sauces, and the preparations tend to be very straightforward. When most of us think Italian, we think red-and-white checkerboard tablecloths and chicken parmesan. This is much more in line with the work Philip Krajeck is doing at Rolf and Daughters, but with fewer pasta offerings.

— There's no reclaimed barnwood in the place, which was nice. I was having coffee with someone a few weeks ago who argued that "Barnwood" should be its own category of restaurant: reclaimed wood on the walls, farm-to-table on the menu, etc. The next restaurant that opens as a Southern food place with all of these trappings should just lean into it and call itself "Barnwood 8" and leave R.E.M. on repeat in the background. Take a break, Barnwood 8, you've been on this shift too long ...

— As I was enjoying the meals there I kept thinking this is the kind of place Nashville needs to add if it's going to have a truly great dining scene. It's got a chef with a pretty strong point of view, the food is executed with a high degree of technique and care, and it's a completely unpretentious experience.

The past two or three years have seen some truly fantastic restaurants open in the city — the aforementioned Rolf and Daughters, Lockeland Table and Husk to name just a few — to build on the scene that Tyler Brown, Tandy Wilson, Deb Paquette, Margot McCormack and others have built over the past decade. It's not enough to open a new restaurant that's just good and make a splash, it's gotta be great. The 404 Kitchen adds to Nashville in ways the dining scene needs if it's going to have a real, permanent national reputation.

— The menu changes frequently, but the deconstructed charlotte that sous chef Sam Tucker dreamed up can pretty much "never come off of the menu," as Bolus put it when I asked. I'm not a huge pear fan, but cover them in a warm, but not-too-thick caramel and add a ice cream-like sabayon? With brioche? I'm ordering it every time. EVERY TIME.

The Kitchen at 404 just opened in late October. Have any of you Bites readers been there? Would you like to share your thoughts?

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