It’s official. Last Saturday, chefs Kim Totzke and Laura Wilson—who individually built a fervent following at Yellow Porch and Wild Iris, respectively—took over the kitchen of Wild Boar, as Nashville’s most upscale and expensive restaurant tries to reposition itself as a more informal, accessible, affordable and inviting eatery, while maintaining its commitment to quality food, fine wine and attentive service.
The co-chefs—who intend to open their own restaurant in East Nashville next year—have spent the last week or so building a repertoire that relies heavily on bistro-brasserie classics, described by owner/GM Brett Allen as “simple, French-influenced fare.” Their first official night on the job was Tuesday of this week when they premiered the brand new menu.
Bistro classics like pommes frite with roasted garlic aioli, beef tenderloin carpaccio with a sunny-side-up egg, smoked salmon plate with capers, and crawfish croquettes with buerre blanc get the party started. Apps start at $5, with most in the $7 to $9 range; the only double-digit starter is for the pan-seared foie gras with green apples and hard cider reduction, still a deal at $15. Entrées are Provence country comfort: hanger steak with maitre d’hotel butter and pommes frites; roasted half-chicken with roasted fingerling potatoes, herb jus and preserved lemons; pan-seared salmon with polenta fries and caponata; shrimp pappardelle with green apples, pine nuts and chevre cream; plus an omelet, a roasted vegetable tart and a burger stuffed with foie gras, topped with garlic aioli and caramelized onions. Two main dishes—the crab-stuffed trout meuniere and the beef tenderloin filet—top out at $20 and $25, and all other entrées are between $12 and $18.
Allen says servers are trading their tuxes for white shirts, black pants and bistro aprons; he and longtime maitre d’ Abbe Ben Rahmoun are also wearing more casual attire, running the front of the house in shirt and tie minus the jacket. Patrons should feel free to do likewise. The silver domes that once topped plates as they were delivered to tables have been shelved. Food is available in the bar, which maintains the same hours as the restaurant, from 5:30-9:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Wild Boar is at 2014 Broadway, 329-1313.
Summer Eating Season officially kicked off at 8:26 a.m. on June 21, and Nashville restaurants that cook according to the harvest calendar have jumped in with gusto, their menus bursting with June product from local growers and coastal suppliers.
Watermark chef Joe Shaw recently took a brief breather at his old stomping grounds on the Florida Gulf, and apparently spent the drive down and back in culinary contemplation, flipping more than half the menu in the couple of weeks since his return. He takes thrice-weekly visits to the Farmers Market, which is reflected on several of the new dishes he and his team introduced last week. A required course is the green tomato starter: slices are lightly breaded and fried, stacked and plated with a creamy remoulade and morsels of Gulf crab. Another dish to sample soon before it rotates off are the tempura-battered squash blossoms, filled with herbed ricotta, fanned daintily around a mound of sweet-spicy green peach and jalapeno salsa. Slip away to the Gulf coast yourself on the cold seafood plate of shrimp, crab cocktail, grouper ceviche and crab claws with a crisp cucumber salad. New entrées include a wood-grilled Florida triggerfish with grits and crawfish etouffee; sautéed Carolina flounder with basil risotto and cherry tomato compote; and braised rabbit and grilled rabbit loin with bacon lardons, potato gnocchi, morel mushrooms and spring peas. Strawberries are sweet and juicy on shortcake with whipped cream.
Chef Jason Brumm also took a little time off between seasons for some R&R, spending several days visiting wineries and notable restaurants in the Napa Valley. His menu revamp rolled out last week, unveiling several new starters and some seasonal entrée makeovers. In the former category, three items are neck and neck for Best Debut: the peekytoe crab salad with avocado, watermelon and key lime curd; heirloom tomatoes with smoked, salted mozzarella and fried squash blossoms; and tuna tartar with yuzu avocado sorbet, radish salad and sesame tuile. The Hawaiian Ahi tuna is now accompanied by baby corn, cherry tomato and spring bean succotash with a horseradish Tabasco mignonette; the halibut is crusted with chopped olives and teamed with artichokes, cippolini, roasted tomato, lemon fennel broth and saffron oil; the skate wing trades cauliflower tortellini for lobster tortellini and pancetta sherry vinaigrette for black-truffle brown butter; and the rack of lamb comes with fava beans, morel mushrooms, red onion marmalade and merlot thyme pan jus.
From its corner on 21st Avenue, Tayst is summerizing and supersizing the menu, introducing the Upscale Value Meal—multi-course, prix-fix tasting menus created and prepared daily by Chef Jeremy Barlow. The No. 1 is salad, entrée and dessert for $26 per person; No 2’s four courses begin with mussels and end with chocolate and is $35; No. 3 is soft shell crab, double-cooked venison, escolar and Krispy Kreme bread pudding, for $45. Would you like to supersize that? Wine pours—by the glass, half-glass or two-oz. portions—will be chosen for each course for as little as $15.
In Franklin, Saffire has lightened up the menu. The summer solstice delivers new starters such as the Italian seafood salad of flash-poached shrimp, calamari, mussels, and scallops marinated in fresh lemon and basil, and crawfish tails sautéed with Roma tomatoes, spinach and Brabent potatoes. Summer ’06 entrées include cioppino; Red Stripe salmon served with orange-coriander butter and callaloo greens; and grilled Gulf fish of the day served over cannelloni beans topped with Caponata relish and basil pesto.