Every year for Mr. Eats’s birthday, we go out and have a very fine, civilized meal. Last year was 404 Kitchen; the year before that was Kayne Prime. This year, I decided on Prima. Like Kayne Prime, Prima is a steak house, which seems like it would be an odd choice for a vegetarian, but like Kayne Prime, there is much more to Prima than just steak. In fact, if I hadn’t been told it was a steak house, I wouldn’t have known.
And that was the issue that Steve Cavendish had with the restaurant when he reviewed Prima for the Nashville Scene. His review was titled, “Prima is a really good Mediterranean restaurant, and a so-so steakhouse,” which gave the impression that it was not a good review. It was, in part, a great review of everything on the menu except the steaks. But let’s be honest: it’s not difficult to cook a steak. It is difficult to cook a steak that will wow you. Because it’s just steak. I asked my husband what was the best steak he’s ever had and he said it was the sous vide/pan seared steak that was served at a friend’s house recently. Not a steak in any restaurant. But they have to have steak on the menu, because the Bill Braskys of the world want a $50 steak when they’re dining on the company dime.
So there’s the background on Prima. And why I thought it would be a good choice for dinner. The menu changes frequently based on what’s seasonal and available, but I knew that they would accommodate me if there was nothing on the menu that suited me. Indeed, most of the sides had some sort of non-vegetarian component (such as pancetta or beef fat), but that was just fine because there was a good selection of salads and soups that would make a good meal. No need to ask for a vegetarian entrée at all.
I started out with the sweet potatoes appetizer. The potatoes are cooked in the skin to the point where it’s crispy and the flesh is creamy (not stringy at all; how do they do that?) and served with grilled onions and fig jam and topped with shreds of ricotta salata. It’s a huge portion, definitely meant for sharing and very delicious. The onions have just a bit of heat that is cooled by the delicate pieces of ricotta. Mr. Eats had the octopus starter, which I recommended based on friends tasting it an event a couple of months ago. The citrus zest really sets it off and Mr. Eats commented that the texture was perfect; not rubbery at all.
For dinner, I had the corona bean soup, which was a vegetable stock based hearty soup that also included bits of carrot, wilted arugula, and I think parsnips or potatoes as well. It was a heavy soup that I couldn’t even finish; it could be a meal on its own (and it will be because you know I brought it home with me). I also had a swiss chard and farro salad with dried cherries and pistachios. The chard was cut into ribbons, tossed in a vinaigrette and mixed with the farro, cherries, and pistachios and then topped with two scoops of deep fried goat cheese. The goat cheese was a substitution that I requested since I’m not a fan of blue cheese. This was one of the best salads I’ve ever had. I’m not sure what else to say about it other than you should try to go there soon before it disappears (though it is a recent addition to the menu, having replaced a kale salad). My husband got a grilled trout (not pictured, for obvious reasons) that was fileted and plated tableside and was huge. As a side, he ordered the grilled broccoli salad, which apparently is lightly seasoned with Beach Road 12 sauce from Martin’s BBQ Joint. He said both were fantastic.
By the end of the meal, I was too stuffed for dessert, which is too bad because there was this chocolate orange and olive oil concoction that sounded as if it were made just for me. Not a fan of the chocolate and citrus combination, Mr. Eats opted for the dulcey chocolate bar, which was actually milk chocolate and mousse-like. He loved it because he prefers milk chocolate to dark. Even better—the staff made sure it was specially-prepared for the occasion.
This seems like the time to mention how fantastic the service was. It’s team service with different staff members for refilling your water (still or sparkling, both complimentary), bringing you a linen napkin (your choice of black or white), and bread service (do not skip the bread; it is delicious). The service was knowledgeable, helpful, and attentive without being intrusive. Other little things that made it nice included that though the restaurant was about 75% full and the kitchen is open to the restaurant, it was not loud. I also didn’t feel crowded up against the tables nearest us. And of course, the gorgeous light fixtures gave us something to gawk at between courses. There is also a valet and complimentary self-parking in the Terrazzo garage. Dress is business casual and up (it’s Nashville; men are almost always in jeans, though).
700 12th Avenue South
Open for dinner nightly