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Comment Archives: Locations: Food and Drink: Brunch: 3 Stars

Re: “Margot Café 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

Re: “The Garden Brunch Cafe

My girlfriends and I visited this relatively new spot after church for brunch. It was suggested to make reservations, which we did, for 1pm. We were seated promptly and seemed to be off to a good experience however after an hour of waiting and sipping our drinks, our food had not yet arrived. After about an hour and 20 minutes our order finally arrived in pieces with some of the finishing touches still missing. The food was lukewarm and bland. After paying, one of my friends was shorted .59 of her change she was owed and told that they had run out of change was the reason. I know this is a new spot and really hope that they can work out the kinks that comes along with a new business. I will patronage this business again in hopes that things will improve. This place has the makings of a great establishment but really needs to make some fine tuning.

0 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by dinerone on 04/18/2010 at 6:39 PM

Re: “Pancake Pantry

On May 16th I learned on how to be seated quickly at Pancake Pantry. I was having breakfast with friends. The food was good as always. It was raining and there was a line outside. A man and woman entered thru the back door and asked a waitress they knew if she had a table. She seated them in front of everyone else. So next time it is raining and a line, just remember enter thru the back door and ask the tall gray hair lady to seat you.
Rating Detail:
Food: 4
Service: 4
Atmosphere: 2
Value: 3
Overall: 3

0 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Steve McMillan on 05/26/2009 at 7:48 PM

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