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Comment Archives: Locations: Restaurants: Contemporary: 3 Stars

Re: “Sambuca

My anniversary was marred by the lousy singer and her accompanyist. The wait staff was pleasant enough, but the food was on the small side for the price and the wine, a half bottle, was a bit on the high side for only a half-bottle.

The singer was doing a countrified version of Sade, and my husband is a big Sade buff, so it just put him out. All in all, the cost plus the mediocre to not good at all entertainment made it the moderate experience it was.

Posted by Smarmy Snodsnick on 11/03/2011 at 4:18 PM

Re: “J. Alexander's

We placed our name on the waiting list ahead of time (no reservations) so we were seated very quickly. Very pleasant service, attentive but not hovering and server was very knowledgable about the menu. We had a variety of entrees, tuna steak, beef tacos and a filet. Salad was excellent, tacos were acceptable, tuna was well prepared. The filet came medium well instead of medium rare. The room is very "alive" acoustically. So if you want a quiet, intimate dinner you might look elsewhere. Food to value ratio is ok. We'd try again.

Posted by The Dog on 05/07/2011 at 9:41 PM

Re: “Urban Flats [Closed]

I don't feel it's really fair to give a restaurant only 1 star based on your dislike of the parking situation.

Here's a REAL review of the actual restaurant.

Pleasant interior, much sleeker and more upscale than you'd expect based on the menu. Food is fresh and freshly prepared. Decent wine selection. Nothing knocked my socks off, but I've never been disappointed with what I ordered. A lot will depend on whether you like the concept and flavor combinations (I do). A perfectly decent casual chain concept that feels more sophisticated than a casual chain concept, and a good choice for lunch or an inexpensive dinner choice before heading out to downtown events.

Posted by FG on 03/21/2011 at 3:46 PM

Re: “F. Scott's Restaurant

For the sake of brevity, I will just touch upon F. Scott’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar, who boasts nightly jazz with rich, extravagant fare. Jazzy it may be, F. Scotts is far from cool; this vanilla ‘hotel lobby’ is a favorite among old wealth, and I mean old.

I came in after 9 p.m. for their half priced entree specials, during a happy hour so to speak. This is an incredible deal for their extravagant preparations, and after having dinner, wine, and dessert once already that evening, my wallet didn’t need anymore of a workout.

I showed up expecting to have my cake and eat it too; sitting to watch free jazz with a half-priced entree sounded like a great deal. But the jazz groups play in the bar section which is separate from the dining room: the only place half price entrees were available. Reluctantly I sat in the dining room and as I gazed about, folks triple my age dined quietly which made this space feel even more out of style than it already was. The decor was a lousy attempt at a 1920s theme, with a few art deco murals on the walls. The ambiance lacked intimacy and romance, unless you really wanted to impress your grandma (Atmosphere for romance -5). I was hoping for more of an east egg mansion feel or perhaps a downtown NYC speakeasy theme.

F. Scott’s ambiance disappointed but the food soothed with its use of ‘easy-pleaser ingredients’, which were essentially bacon and cream. The shear quantity of these fatty fillers unfairly biased my opinion with guilty pleasure, but I know better now. The menu at F. Scott’s is cohesive and extravagant. Dishes include a lot of components with bold flavors, and seem to be composed in creative and delicious ways. Regionally, I would classify its style as French-southern fusion, like many of Nashville’s fine restaurants. And of course, dishes are rich, so the health conscious should dine with discretion.

Cauliflower puree soup with lemon brown butter and cornmeal fried oyster $9

The dish came looking like it had a rough journey from kitchen to table; the brown butter had diverged from a cutesy squirt design, to a hot, runny mess (Presentation -1). Aside from aesthetics, the soup was delicious. But basic it was, with an extremely high cream to cauliflower ratio (Use of easy-pleasers -1). The cornmeal fried oyster added a nice brininess to the round flavors of the soup and showed a bit of creativity. A chardonnay paired nicely with this bowl of cream, but the combination of the wine and oyster, was spectacular. The lemon was lost in the brown butter, leaving just butter. And ultimately, it was this pool of butter on top of cream that left me feeling quite fat (Use of easy-pleasers -1, Sin factor +1).

REVAMPED Cauliflower puree soup with lemon gastrique, brown butter, and cornmeal fried oyster $9

The menu description was not deceiving; I expected lots of cream, and the inclusion of butter was disclosed. The only aspect I would change is the lemon component. A separate lemon gastrique along side of the brown butter would have really made the soup pop.

Rainbow trout with fennel and bacon, greens and roasted red pepper-scallion butter $27 ($13.50 after 9 p.m.)

My entree arrived looking much more presentable than the soup. Two identical roulades of trout stood at either end of a long rectangular plate. Local greens rested under the fish and ‘red pepper-scallion butter’ was pooled about. It was visually appealing, and if you really like butter and bacon, this dish had an affinity to the heart, in a very threatening way. In this extremely rich ‘up do’ of trout, there was too much grease and butter, and frankly more fat could not have been squeezed into this dish. Let’s break it down. After trout, there was fennel, which according to the menu, was a feature. Then came the bacon, and finally the market greens which were smothered in what F. Scott's has called a roasted red pepper-scallion brown butter. This brown butter appeared more like diced roasted red peppers and scallions in brown butter. The dish sounded good on paper, looked good on a plate, but tasted like microwave pizza. Well sort of, the roasted red pepper, smokey bacon, and shear fat content reminded me of pizza. The smokiness of Benton’s bacon was so overbearing that I tasted not much else (Flavor pairing fundamentals -2). The roasted pepper and butter came through, like they would, but the fennel was completely lost in the smoke. Even the trout was hard to taste, which on a side note, was over done. This over doneness was disguised by the quantity of added fat in the dish (Doneness precision -2). This dish was also very salty and I must revoke a point here (Use of salt -1). Ultimately this dish was pretty good in a really smokey, unhealthy way (Use of easy-pleasers -2). I also preemptively deduct one point for ‘Health dish execution’ because I have a hunch that this would be out of F. Scott’s comfort zone (Health dish execution -1).

REVAMPED Rainbow trout with fennel and bacon, greens and roasted red pepper-scallion butter $27 ($13.50 after 9 p.m.)

I would have not used Benton's bacon, it's just too smokey and pedestrian for high cuisine. Prosciutto would have been perfect wrapped in the trout roulade. Fennel is too delicate for all the big flavors of butter, ham, and red pepper. I think the dish would have worked well without it.

Additional grudged deductions:

F. Scott's has no sex appeal (Sex factor -3)
The waitstaff bored me just like the crowd (Waitstaff enthusiasm -2)

------------------------
1. Menu cohesion 0
2. Pricing 0
3. Beverage pairings -1
4. Atmosphere for romance -5
5. Cleanliness 0
6. Waitstaff competence 0
7. Waitstaff enthusiasm -2
8. Overall management 0
9. Flavor pairing fundamentals -2
10. Flavor pairing originality 0
11. Texture Profile 0
12. Use of "easy-pleasers" -4
13. Use of salt -1
14. Doneness precision -2
15. Dish sin factor +1
16. Dish sex factor -3
17. Presentation -1
18. Dish practicality 0
19. Healthful dish execution -1
20. Kitchen speed 0

1st visit (100-21 = 79)
-------------------------

2 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by DanielBF on 09/20/2010 at 4:17 PM

Re: “Margot Cafe And Bar

She’s an elegantly rustic, French-Italian, just seconds away from my condo. The tour began close to home, for if I decided that all this posh posh made me sick, I could waddle home with ease. Margot is a stronghold of the 5 Points intersection in East Nashville. 5 Points is a hip, understated, semi-gay, up and coming out neighborhood in Nashville. And with sister cafe, Marche Artisan Foods just around the way, this pair stakes its claim for fine dining east of the river.

Since the beginning of all this eating insanity, I have dined at Margot twice. My premier dining experience at Margot was... well, read on. Miss Margot, await your second, high-scoring evaluation, you secured redemption, and provided me with ”enough” data to conclude this analysis.

With simplicity, like the rustic Margot Cafe and Bar, I will skip the lavish imagery, avoid whimsical sketches of ambiance and aroma, and maintain a strict, scientific method of review. I will treat the subjects like objects and stick to the numbers, even though all this banter is completely subjective. Margot is a relatively small space with one whole first floor, half of a second floor, and a glassed-in patio with 270 degrees of windows. The primary space is open and lofty with exposed brick, yet warm and cozy... whoops, opulence. But really, Margot is quite romantic, but we'll get into that later. And if you are still wondering about Marche, the restaurateur's casual half, you'll have to wait until that post.

The host of a fancy restaurant generally seats parties of one at the bar; I reluctantly sat at the bar. With the worst seat in the house, I attempted to get comfortable. I told myself to focus on the food, and if Margot wasn't to lose points, the food had better be spectacular. Sitting at the bar inhibited me from collecting important table service data. Oh the woes... uncomfortably seated near the dishwashing side of the kitchen, there was nothing redeeming about MY position. I sat uneasy and unknowing, as all the culinary action transpired on the other side of the kitchen. There was no romance in the air, so I just stared at the ceiling (Atmosphere for romance -1).

I spurred consultation with the bartendress on wine pairings for my entree. She was unknowledgeable, but the wine list looked comprehensive and I believed somebody in the house knew something about wine (Wine pairing -3). I ordered a Sauvignon Blanc and the first two courses.

Margot has a brief offering of safe, yet creative French and Italian inspired dishes. The daily episode features dishes composed of locally acquired vegetables, meats, and cheeses, which are prepared in a rustic and healthful execution. There lies a nice menu theme; Margot has a touch of elegance.

First course - Herbed ricotta pizza with squash blossoms $9
In a perfect culinary world, the delicate flavor of the blossoms deserve to make the headlines and the cheese would hang back on the 4th page. But on the front page that night at Margot, HERBED RICOTTA laced with peppercorn was printed in big bold letters, stealing the cover (Flavor pairing fundamentals -2). To top it off, the bottom of this pie was chewy and underdone, I would have preferred a ‘dough done crisp’ (Doneness precision -2). Crispy dough would have also added a second textural dimension for me. But this pizza of fluffy cheese, mushy squash blossoms, and chewy dough was close to mono-textural (Texture profile -3). The pizza’s appearance was doughy, cheesy white, with hints of orange and yellow blossom; divided in four, it sat on a plate (Presentation -1, Dish sex factor -1). So here we have a few fundamentals that were overlooked. STOP THE PRESSES!, with a new menu issued daily, the editors MUST be up all night!

Revamped first course - Ricotta pizza with squash blossoms, crispy shallots, and eucalyptus honey $10 In my humble opinion, a plain ricotta or other quiet, lightweight cheese may have worked better to complement the subtle aromatics of the squash blossoms. And fine, keep the light, chewy dough, but give me some crisp and some saucy stuff! Fried shallots, a drizzle of eucalyptus honey, and fruity olive oil would have been divine. An ice cold Prosecco would be "pants down" the best boozy beverage to pair with this new and improved 1st course pizza.

I sipped my Sauvignon Blanc, awaiting the main course I chose with malicious intention. An extraneous vegan dish that was tacked onto the end of the menu would be the tell-all plate of the night. I put Margot to the test with their healthful yet bland sounding dish.

Couscous with fresh local figs, pine nuts, and a chard and kale salad $16
Small couscous seasoned with salt and olive oil at the bottom, toasted pine nuts strewn about, with under-ripe whole green figs and a lightly dressed raw kale and chard salad to top. It was boring (Flavor pairing originality -2). AND it was mostly bland (Flavor pairing fundamentals -2). All together, it was light and had hints of quality olive oil and sea salt. Its appearance was as I described it, a mere mound of couscous and vegetables. (Presentation -1)(Dish sex factor -3). So I ask, why do it if it’s not done with excellence? Making luscious and sophisticated vegan fare takes some creativity, but it is not difficult by any means. With such a rustic and simplistic menu, I figured this vegan dish would impress in its inherent nature, but its components just lacked the luster, and the dish as a whole lacked a means of tying it all together. Here, a “Sin factor” would have played nicely; every restaurant’s vegan dish needs to sin a little, but for this safe, healthy little angel, four points were deducted (Sin factor -4). I was not impressed, but I’ve said enough on this (Healthful dish execution -3)

Revamped main course - Israeli couscous and pine nut timbale with rosemary-lemon marinated figs, chard salad, and mint "yogurt" $18 - In my humble opinion, I would improve this vegan-blunder with an Israeli couscous & pine nut timbale to add a structural element. Rosemary and lemon marinated figs to add brightness and a great bite. Keep the chard salad and add a mint "yogurt" to tie it all together with a sauce element. A pairing with a dry Rose or a light-bodied Zinfandel may work nicely.

Dessert is my favorite aspect of “no rules” eating. I am literally fatter now, it’s just marvelous. I really like bold desserts that are heavy with nuts, dough, cinnamon, caramel, vanilla, custard, and liqueur sauces. So I picked my poison and waited. I hoped this final course would keep Margot afloat after a near shipwreck.

Pecan brioche bread pudding with caramel whiskey sauce and whipped cream $7 - This dessert was GOOD, I certainly enjoyed the warm flavors of this comfort food, but of course, this being a critical review, I had to pick it apart. I may be a novice when it comes to dessert, and therefore easy to please. With respect to my lean figure, I have avoided honing my dessert-preparing skills. However, I still have taste buds and know what I like. Never having a bread pudding before, I could only assume it to be halfway between bread and pudding. So, since my experience at Margot, I conducted some supplemental research on bread pudding and came to the following understanding. Bread pudding is made by taking stale, highly absorbent bread, soaking it in a basic custard, and baking it lightly in the oven. A caramel sauce and/or whipped cream usually tops it off. IMHO, I’d prefer the bread pudding to be favoring the puddin' side of thangs; bread just doesn’t sound like a good dessert. Margot’s bread pudding was teetering towards the bread side. And yes, while it was brioche, I still felt like I was eating a breakfast pastry or a piece of less sweet cake, I really wanted some PUDDIN’! The pecans in this dish were background noise, and didn’t do much for me. The whiskey sauce was nice and sweet, but tasted more like caramel than whiskey. The freshly whipped cream on top was a refreshing lubricant for this otherwise semi-dry piece of brioche (Dish sin factor -1, Texture profile -1).

Revamped dessert - Brioche bread pudding with whiskey sauce, cinnamon, and orange zest topped with vanilla pecan ice cream $8 - This bread pudding was thirsty for more custard; a super-saturated brioche would have been divine. A boozier whiskey sauce with MORE whiskey and LESS sugar would have added intense warmth. Complement that with the warm aromatics of cinnamon baked into a brioche and brightness of orange zest sprinkled on top. Replace the airy, unsweetened whipped cream with vanilla pecan ice cream, and I would have been in the heavens.



A few last thoughts covering criteria I left out...

The pricing at Margot seemed fitting at $21-$26 for meaty entrees. And although Margot's debut was weaker than expected, my vegan dish was only $16. I had faith in a restaurant of this caliber and knew I had to spend more money to get the good stuff.

I will close up the romance and atmosphere report. I thought the physical space of Margot was very refined yet rustic, open yet warm, relaxing (if sitting at a table), and definitely hot date material. I even think there is a make out room upstairs, but since they definitely wouldn't sit a party of one in the make out room, I hadn't the chance to go up yet. So, with resentment I revoked that one point.

The cleanliness at Margot was certainly looked after. And since I came home without food poisoning or gum on my shoe, no points will be deducted.

Waitstaff ratings could not be included in this report because of my position at the bar. But whilst spinning around on my stool, the staff hustled by, impressing me with their earnest professionalism.

Overall management seemed effective and efficient.

Kitchen speed was 20% slower than I wanted; this is totally arbitrary and biased by my uncomfortable position. But we'll say the duration of time between placing an order and having the first thought that my food should be done was prolonged by 20% (Kitchen speed -1)

------------------------
1. Menu cohesion -0
2. Pricing -0
3. Beverage pairings -3
4. Atmosphere for romance -1
5. Cleanliness -0
6. Waitstaff competence -0
7. Waitstaff enthusiasm -0
8. Overall management -0
9. Flavor pairing fundamentals -4
10. Flavor pairing originality -4
11. Texture Profile -4
12. Use of "easy-pleasers" -0
13. Use of salt -0
14. Doneness precision -2
15. Dish sin factor -5
16. Dish sex factor -4
17. Presentation -2
18. Dish practicality -0
19. Healthful dish execution -3
20. Kitchen speed -1

100-33 = 77
-------------------------


This review was long and painful, my apologies. But I would like to make a few positive concluding remarks. Although my premier experience at Margot was disappointing, I have some of that 'sick puppy' faith to come back. I am always impressed by the daily menu which I frequently look at online, last night's "Pan-roasted duck breast with polenta croutons, pickled peaches, and preserved lemon" sounded really good. The space is lovely, the staff are seemingly passionate, and the food, I know, has potential to please. I will definitely be coming back.

Let's hope Margot bumps up her 77% with a redeeming second visit.


-Dan

Posted by DanielBF on 09/20/2010 at 4:16 PM

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