Hyndman’s Latin nameplate Lime celebrates two years by launching lunch and slashing prices 

Chris Hyndman has so much on his plate these days—with the recent opening of Whiskey Kitchen and the coming debut of Kayne Prime steak house, not to mention the scheduled move of Virago to the Gulch in 2010—that it wouldn't be altogether surprising if he neglected his 2-year-old Lime restaurant until his new M Street enterprises were all in place. On the contrary, Hyndman has redoubled efforts at the Latin-inspired restaurant, packaging the overhaul with the pithy tag line "New Look, New Lunch, New Lime."

Still a feast for the senses, the sleek dining room has been cozy-ed up with a coat of warm earth-toned paint and additional accents of wood paneling. In an effort to divide the lower and upper levels on opposite sides of the central bar, Hyndman constructed a grid of open shelving and installed flat-screen televisions on both sides. (The latter is not necessarily an improvement, at least from the perspective of diners who involuntarily flinch as the pictures change.) In the front dining room, he pulled out the built-in seating and brought in a more flexible arrangement of tables.

But there's a lot more than fresh paint and a new seating plan at Lime. As Hyndman launches his M Street dining district on McGavock Street, he has lured veteran chef Scott Alderson back from Florida to serve as culinary director of Whiskey Kitchen, Kayne Prime, Virago and Lime. Alderson and chef Ray Whitlock—who teamed up at Saffire in Franklin—lay hands on Lime's menu this fall to debut a roster on which everything costs less than $20.

Call it Restaurant Reaganomics: Hyndman is banking that price cuts on main dishes will stimulate appetite for appetizers, salads and desserts. The five so-called 2/3 Entrées (with proportionately smaller price tags) are intended to draw more traffic into the building and lure diners to order an additional item. Indeed, the prices are more hospitable than the $44 entrées of Lime's early days. But nothing we sampled was less than wholly satisfying.

For $16.50, it would be hard to name a local dish that surpassed the subtle sophistication and decadence of the guava lamb. Tender medallions of top sirloin grilled over a wood fire married a smoky finish with sweet fruit notes. What appeared to be a modest dish of meat, rice and beans was a deceptively complex composition of flavors, ranging from warm earthy spices in the black beans, to creamy coconut rice laced with sweet nutty shreds, to bright accents of pink guava drizzled sparingly over the meat. (For the record, this dish traveled well and made excellent leftovers. Yes, it was large enough to yield leftovers.)

There's no telling how the salmon barbacoa travels, because ours disappeared from the plate in a greedy rush of forks angling for the tender grilled fish. Lacquered with ancho-chile barbecue sauce and finished with molten grape tomatoes and fresh cilantro, the delicately cooked salmon lounged on a bed of creamy roasted corn with a caramel-colored hue that recalled Cracker Jacks and rivaled the coconut rice for best supporting side dish.

If that 30-percent savings is burning a hole in your pocket, you'd be wise to invest in the small plate of coco chile shrimp. Tossed in a creamy aioli with a piquant pink tinge of sriracha chile, the tender rock shrimp—breaded with flour and ground coconut before flash-frying—arrive in a mini paella pan of hammered stainless steel, on a white plate accented with habanero honey and lime for dipping.

Presented in tiny trays over crushed ice, the elegant ceviche trio offers a refreshing sampler of ahi finished with toasted sesame seeds, chile, aioli, tangerine and Patron limeade; shrimp and calamari with habanero passion fruit, scallions and mint; and snapper with gazpacho of cucumbers and Serrano peppers, grapefruit, ginger and a dollop of lime sorbet.

A nearby table of vegetarians swooning over enchiladas prompted us to try the medley of grilled sweet peppers, mushrooms, onions and squash. Wrapped in soft corn tortilla, whose sweetness tempered the earthy heat of the mole topping, the enchiladas were an all-too-rare example of a meatless entrée that lacked nothing in terms of flavor.

Connoisseurs of fish tacos will applaud the generous portions of beer-battered deep-fried fish served with an oversized jigger of colorful slaw and a side of sweet and tangy pineapple ranch. That said, one of the few mis-hits of our meals arrived with the flight of tacos. Beside the colorful components of fish, steak, salsa, guacamole and queso sat an unsightly plop of refried beans so scatological it made us giggle like Beavis and Butthead.

While the revised dinner lineup presents a relative bargain, the new lunch menu is still a relative splurge, with quesadillas and sandwiches priced over $10 and other items discounted only a couple of dollars from the evening prices. Starting at $8.50 (toppings of blue cheese, bacon, grilled onions, avocado and fried egg are $1 each), the burger offers a promising preview of things to come when Hyndman launches Kayne Prime in the next couple of months in the space that formerly housed Radius10. Made with a blend of steak trimmings and chuck and served on a cornmeal-dusted Kaiser roll with paper-thin sweet-potato chips, the juicy burger sidesteps Lime's Latin theme, but holds to the high level of quality that runs throughout the dining experience.

Lime serves lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Monday through Sunday.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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