Saturday, December 31, 2011

Raz'z Bar & Grill in Nashville

After driving past the same billboard twice a day for three days, I suppose it was fate that we ended up at Raz'z Bar & Grill for New Year's Eve. I'm sure the billboard advertising that the restaurant was featured on Food Network's "Best Thing Ever" had nothing to do with it. An icy wind blew us into Raz'z, but the warm atmosphere and smooth live jazz chased away the Tennessee chill.

I had big expectations for Raz'z, a billboard will do that, but the best parts of the meal for me came in all the little surprises. First was the friendly people. From the near ecstatic fellow who seated us to the manager who came to say goodbye, Raz'z was full of great folks. The chef even brought our meal to the table, and I don't think I've ever seen a bigger smile.

Next was the bread. It might seem a little funny to go from great service to bread, but you didn't taste this bread. Our third basket was delayed momentarily so it could finish baking. That's fresh. These rolls are served h-o-t and soft. I even had one for dessert. The yellow squash casserole was another savory little surprise. It's a must try. Finally, the kid's spaghetti! Not only was it a wonderful portion for only $2.99, but the pasta was cooked perfectly. I ended up eating almost as much of our smallest diner's meal as I did my own.

The Jumbalia Pasta lived up to it's Food Network reputation with just the right amount of kick and cooked-all-day flavor. We had ours over wild rice, which added wonderful nuttiness and chewy texture, but if the pasta version is anything like the kid's pasta, I'd say definitely get that.

Since I've been craving BBQ since first setting foot in the South, we rounded out the night's meal with a full rack of ribs. I know, I know, but it's New Year's Eve! And as the saying goes, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we diet (Yeah, wish me luck with that!). So with resolutions around the corner, I totally indulged tonight, and an indulgence it was. You don't so much chew the meat of the bones at Raz'z. You just suck it off and the meat kind of jumps into your mouth like it had the idea first.

This wasn't just good food, it was an excellent dining experience. When you eat Nashville, make sure to check out Raz'z Bar & Grill. With our meals in Tennessee numbered, this one was really worth the stop!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gerst Haus since 1890, Nashville

Dark stained wood, exposed stone, and stuffed deer heads give the Gerst Haus a definitively German feel (of course the Oom-pah music doesn't hurt either). Set just across the river from the main part of Nashville, Gerst Haus bar and restaurant was an unexpected find on today's hunger-induced wanderings. Even more surprising, we were just in time for happy hour! Any one of the four half-priced appetizers would have been more than enough to fill us up (even sharing), but we got three.

If you're unfamiliar with German food (though it does strongly influence quite a bit of American cuisine), the Sausage Sampler is a great place to start (11.99 normally, our price 6.00). It comes with a selection of four German sausages (long, thick slices of bratwurst, smoked mett ring, berliner mett, and kielbase, the winner). The plate also includes rye bread, horseradish, German potato salad, and a hefty scoop of sweet and spicy sauerkraut (on the side). The Munich Cheese Dip, a mixture of cheese, salsa, and ground beef, came across more Mexican then German, but was tasty in a pub food, Super Bowl party kind of way (7.99, our price 4.00). Our favorite of the day, however, was definitely the Gerst Bavarian Pizza. This strange appetizer consisted of two big slices of rye bread topped with pizza sauce, kielbase, and Swiss and cheddar cheeses and is baked until the cheese is brown. (Mommy!) We couldn't finish half the food we got, but with this incredible bargain and a belly full of hearty, strangely familiar German food, who can complain? With an ample menu of choices like Beef Stroganoff, Goulash, and Quail, any diner can find a hearty new favorite. And, yes, they have hamburgers and roast chicken for the less adventurous in your party.

Couldn't manage dessert this time around, but with Bavarian Apfel Strudel and the Flourless Chocolate Cake on the menu, you'll want to share dinner and save room! Write me and tell me how the desserts were at Gerst Haus. I'll be so jealous!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sunset Grill in Nashville

We walked into the upscale Sunset Grill in Nashville, Tennessee with promises of upscale fare at stripped down, late night prices. I was not disappointed. After 10pm, Sunset Grill ditches the lobster and fillet minion for a smaller, cheaper menu without losing any of the flavor. Even though I perused the menu online before jumping on the 440, it was tough to decide. Voodoo Pasta, Honey Almond Chicken Salad, and a Classic Hummus plate that looked anything but classic beconed, but the winner of the night was a suggestion from both our host and our waitress: Nachos. I was as surprised as anyone, but when twice in five minutes you hear, "Our late night menu is known for the nachos," and the guy behind you orders them, you roll with fate and get the nachos.

Like most nachos, they were big enough to share and an awesome bargain at $11.99 (chicken and black beans included for late night guests only). Unlike most nachos, they were coated in a melted cream cheese and salsa mixture before being topped with a pile of cheddar. The straightforward salsa on the side had the perfect baby kick for a baby mouth like mine, but optional jalapeno peppers are there for them that wants 'um. I am totally stealing the Sunset Grill nacho recipe for my next party.

But I couldn't come all this way and just get the nachos (famous or not)! The Sonoma Salad, served with a mellow sweet garlic-zinfandel vinaigrette, creamy Danish blue, green apples and roasted almonds, was generous even for the $3.99 half portion. And dessert? Yes, please! Though even the smaller, late night menu is filled with exciting flavors, it doesn't hold a candle the the dessert menu. It all looked great, but I can't see the word "sushi" on a menu and not dive right in. I was warned by my served that the Chocolate-Coconut Sushi, "Is a lot of coconut," but I had to try it. The ganache coated coconut log was awesome, chilled and topped with whipped cream and candied ginger. The flavors were so well balanced, right up until I realized I'd still had three, naked coconut log centers left behind. Might I suggest, Chef, smaller logs for a better chocolate/coconut ratio? A dramatic and yummy desserts, if you can make peace with not cleaning your plate.

This won't be my last trip to Sunset Grill, for sure. The Polenta Cheese Fries with basil ketchup are calling my name, and I am a sucker for a gallery atmosphere at Denny's prices. Curiosity alone, (Butterscotch-Habanero Bread Pudding?) will bring me back... probably tomorrow. Bravo, Sunset Grill!