Just before we were due to meet at Green Hills Thai & Sushi, my lunch companion texted to say she was already waiting for me; unfortunately, she was at the wrong sushi restaurant in Green Hills. Her confusion was understandable, now that there are three sushi spots similarly situated in the shopping district. If you are driving north on Hillsboro Road between Hobbs and Woodmont, you now have three opportunities to turn right, then find a sushi restaurant almost immediately on your left. There's Ginza, near Parnassus and the Donut Den. There's Kohana, near Brilliant Sky Toys and Books, and the Mexican restaurant Alegria. As of this summer, there's also Green Hills Thai & Sushi in the erstwhile Bavarian Village, where August Moon used to be.
Gone are the days when you could invite a friend to sushi in Green Hills and you'd both show up at Shintomi — may it rest in peace — no questions asked. These days Green Hills nigiri noshers are positively swimming in options, from the hibachi tables of Tokyo Japanese Steak House, to the takeout counter at Whole Foods. All that choice means sushi slingers face demanding customers and a competitive market.
It is in the context of ever-rising expectations that we visited Green Hills Thai & Sushi and found a two-pronged menu that held up well in the Thai department but less favorably in the sushi category.
Nestled in a low-key retail strip, where you might miss it if you didn't know to look, the space has been completely reworked to erase all memory of the bygone Chinese restaurant. Hibachi smoke hangs in the air, though the grilling takes place in the kitchen, not tableside. The layout, with bar in front, dim lighting, accents of sleek black wood, and multiple televisions broadcasting a range of programs — reminded us of several other local establishments. According to our server, the eatery is not connected to any other Nashville nameplates but does have a sister restaurant in Columbus, Ga.
At dinner, our group of seven fit perfectly in a spacious booth, and we quickly covered the table with an array of familiar Asian favorites. Pad Thai was a generous and fresh take on the sweet and glistening tangle of noodles, with large plump shrimp, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts and wedge of lime. Likewise, red curry brimmed with tender chicken and fresh vegetables in a creamy coconut-based sauce that showed more spicy gumption than many local examples.
Our server recommended phad ba mee, and we appreciated the suggestion of thin curly egg noodles tossed in sweet soy-based sauce with broccoli, snap peas and a choice of meat or seafood. And while the so-called Amazing Plate! — exclamation point included — may be the namesake of overly optimistic hyperbole, we did enjoy the variation on popular panang, with plump shrimp in a peanut curry sauce plated with raw baby spinach and stir-fried broccoli.
Among the most disappointing items was soft-shell crab, which arrived looking like a cruller cut into indiscriminate nuggets, with none of the spidery flourish that can make the seasonal crustacean so appealing. Meanwhile, tempura vegetables and shrimp wore an overly greasy and heavy breading that reminded us more of fast food than delicate Asian cuisine.
While none of our dishes raised the bar for Asian food as we know it locally, the lunchtime specials — served with choice of miso or clear soup or iceberg salad for $8 or $9 — earned a place in the pantheon of lunch bargains, especially for Green Hills.
When it comes to sushi, however, there did not appear to be any economies to the menu, as compared to nearby eateries. Nor did we encounter any premium of quality or innovation. Instead, we found a menu dotted with references to "cheese," "krab" and "real crab," and a server who knew little about the restaurant's offerings. When someone at my table asked for ponzu, we received a ramekin of hoisin. When we asked how to order the festive combination boat that was displayed prominently at the sushi counter, our server was unable to figure it out. We settled for a combo platter of nigiri and rolls, including extruded blocks of pink crab-style meat and a Philadelphia roll stuffed with "krab cheese." While many restaurants include complimentary miso soup and salad with larger combo platters, that was not the case here. (That said, even when the salad is included, diners would be wise to upgrade to a seaweed salad instead, as the bowl of emerald strands tossed with julienned cucumber was a fresh and vibrant highlight of our visits.)
If our experiences at lunch and dinner are any indication of future performance, Green Hills Thai & Sushi is not likely to emerge as a big fish in the pond of local Asian cuisine. Fortunately for Nashville sushi fans, there are plenty of other fish in the sea.
Green Hills Thai & Sushi serves lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and dinner only on weekends.
Someone should recommend that she collect her money up front.
Never had spiced round, but I'm not a native Nashvillian either, although I have lived…
Big pot of gumbo.
It's got to be cafe nonna in sylvan park.
I will try them but, as said in the article, I'm starting to tire of…