Before even arriving in Nashville, Trevor Moran had logged a significant culinary experience. The Irish-born chef spent four years cooking at Noma in Copenhagen, which is often cited as the best restaurant in the world. After arriving in Nashville in 2013, he got another prestigious gig: heading the kitchen at The Catbird Seat, the crown jewel in the Goldberg brothers’ Strategic Hospitality empire. There he earned kudos for food that was both avant-garde and comforting. Now he has his own restaurant, an Asian-inspired spot called Locust, also in the Strategic Hospitality family. It opened a year ago but didn’t get the attention it deserved in the pandemic-afflicted restaurant scene. Word should now go out far and wide because Locust is a revelation.
As my colleague Chris Chamberlain has noted, “Moran’s Irish background, Nordic culinary training and Asian obsessions are all perfectly evident in his menu choices and the overall vibe of the restaurant and dining experience.” Two obsessions are particularly key to the Locust concept: dumplings steamed in bamboo baskets, and kakigōri, or Japanese-style shaved ice dessert.
The pork dumplings are impeccable, succulent little nuggets of goodness, served with chili oil on the side. Another recent dish was even more savory: beef tartare and warm rice, served with sheets of nori (seaweed) so you can assemble your own hand roll. Pure umami perfection. Meanwhile, Moran has experimented for years with kakigōri, which is nothing like a snow cone. The ice is as fluffy as snow. Toppings vary, but recently the bed of shaved ice luxuriated beneath a custard-like layer of almond milk and a drizzle of salted caramel.
Moran is a chef who constantly innovates, but his food isn’t stunt cuisine. It’s restorative. And Trevor Moran is a culinary genius.