Tag Archives: chachah

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Mr. Eats and I are huge fans of Top Chef. So of course we were excited when one of our favorite local chefs, Arnold Myint appeared on the show last season. I followed him on Twitter for his colorful commentary each Wednesday night and still follow him to keep up with what's new at his restaurants.

That's how I found out that fellow cheftestant Kenny Gilbert would be visiting last week and would be hanging out at Cha Chah for dinner and drinks and we were welcome to come and meet them. Kenny was a favorite of the husband, so he was particularly excited. I was also happy to get a night out and finally try the falafel that Beth had been raving about.

It was a fun night with Beth, Tabitha, Vivek, Zarna and a few others just chatting and having a good time.

Kenny, me, and Arnold!
The fantastic quinoa falafel with feta, curried vegetable barigoule
 and lotus chips
Thanks so much to Arnold for hosting!

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I still need to write some wonderful things about New York, don't I? I will probably visit New York yet again before I get around to finishing up that project. Anyhoo.

My birthday (and the birthdays of many of my friends) is at the end of September, so the husband and I spent a whole lotta time dining out between September 26th and October 3rd. We went to a couple of old favorites and tried some new places, too.

First up, we went to ChaChah. We'd intended to go to PM instead, but it was crowded and ChaChah offered up the opportunity for immediate seating on the patio. Win.

I love the food at ChaChah. Arnold Myint, the chef is very creative and seems to combine some of my favorite things with new flavors to create wonderful dishes. The delicious tagine was gone from the menu, but replaced by a "menestra" of seasonal vegetables flavored with a hint of Meyer lemon preserve. Though, because the chef strives to keep the menu "fresh," the menestra is now gone, too--replaced by another vegetarian dish that I'm sure I'd love. Though I could survive on pinchos and salad and dips (which I don't see on the menu right now--Arnold, you rascal). And dessert...that night, we had a coconut milk-based flan flavored with cardamom. Spectacular. In addition to the food, ChaChah (and PM) have fantastic cocktails. I can't wait to go back postpartum when I can actually enjoy one with liquor.

Incidentally, the tagine wasn't the only thing I noticed missing from the menu since our only previous visit back in March for Husband's birthday...gone also were the high prices on the large plates. Replaced by very, very reasonable prices. How refreshing.

Next up was brunch at Allium. We'd never been before and hadn't thought much about it (we don't make it to East Nashville often) but that's where a friend was having a birthday brunch. There are several vegetarian options, but I'm not a fan of eggs so I had Raspberry brioche French toast. What I really wanted were popovers (!), but the popover o' the day had bacon in it.

The food was very good (Husband thoroughly enjoyed his Shrimp Benedict or something like that), the place is really remarkable for two other things: the view and the service. The view (see photo) speaks for itself. When it's patio time again, be sure to visit. The service...wow. When one friend couldn't decide between two side dishes, the server offered to bring a half serving of each. I've never heard a server offer that. I was impressed (and so was my friend). And when I asked about the popovers, I gave a back up choice of the French toast, but neglected to mention that I'd want hash browns on the side instead of bacon. No worries, he picked up on that on his own and even said that if he'd gotten that wrong, he'd bring out another side. I think I fell in love right then.

Our next stop, mid-week, was for my actual birthday. I chose Zola because it'd been quite some time since I'd eaten there and because I'd heard of a special vegetarian menu. The chef, Deb Paquette, has always had a vegetarian option and been able to accommodate special requests (I have never forgotten that phyllo burrito stuffed with roasted vegetables and Israeli couscous), so I was very curious about the menu.

The verdict? Eh. No phyllo burrito, sadly. I did have a very tasty empanadilla, but the other options were a bit disappointing to me, but that's because (at the time), they were heavy on eggplant. I don't care for eggplant. I won't bother to tell you why, but I don't. No fault of the chef's, of course. Ya can't please everyone and she's not a psychic. What vegetarian doesn't like eggplant? Anyhoo. I'd actually filled up on a really delicious brie bruschetta with these wonderful little candied hazelnuts.

But the thing that Husband and I discussed the most was the service (seeing a theme?). The service there is really great...the servers know the menu inside and out and make great recommendations. But something on this night just wasn't right. We just didn't see this guy very much. We waited for a long time to order, to get drinks, to get bread, to get our food. We were there for over two hours and we didn't even have dessert. Halfway through, we figured out the reason, though--the table next to us. Every time the server came by, he had to spend at least ten minutes with these people. I think he just eventually started avoiding them--and us, since we were so close. We were just unlucky. It was annoying, but I can't blame him too much. Whoever wrote this must've been in the dining room that night. On the upside, we weren't tempted with dessert and that's a good thing because there was an Italian wedding cake from The Fresh Market waiting for me at home. My favorite.

We finished up the week with a Saturday night dinner at City House. Many of my friends and online foodie friends have raved about City House, so a big group of us met up for dinner.

What I hadn't thought about before was that all the fans of City House are omnivores. The real draws at this restaurant are cured meats and the specials. We, however dined from the menu and I chose from the few vegetarian options.

I started out sharing a "margherita" pizza with the husband. I use quotes because there was no sign of the (what I feel is) the required fresh basil. The pizza did have a good flavor and though I love thin crust, this crust didn't hold up well to the watery sauce. It tasted great, but was a thin, soggy mess. A little thicker crust and a lot less runny sauce (plus a few leaves of basil) and this pizza would be perfect.

Next, I had "Conchiglie, Shittake, Potatoes, Garlic, Oregano, Grana Padano." An adult's version of shells and cheese, right? It's hard to go wrong with a pasta dish, but this one just didn't come together right. I've heard that City House gets their pasta fresh from a local pasta maker, but the shells didn't seem fresh. And I thought it was maybe the heavy hand with the cheese, but others have said that the pasta dishes there were too salty. It was too something. This could have easily been a good, simple and light dish that's satisfying, but it was just not great. Just okay (but too salty). Roasted mushrooms over a really good egg fettucine with olive oil and a bit of cheese would be great. I think this thing got overthought. Try saying that three times fast.

While the food was okay, the service was not. There was a steady decline in the quality of service we received over the week and this guy really punctuated that. First, he took drink orders for just half the table and then disappeared (we had a party of seven). Then, he seemed annoyed at having to explain many of the words on the menu (if a sugo is a sauce, just say so, mmkay?). But the worst was that he didn't really seem to understand the food very well and wasn't able to explain the menu at all. When my friend asked if the butter beans could be substituted on the catfish plate, he started with a very blunt "no." It was startling, actually. And he never did explain that the reason was that it was not a side dish, but part of a sauce that was made for the fish. There was not a big ol' pile of butter beans on her plate, which is what one tends to imagine when ordering catfish.

There were highlights, though. The drink menu there is great--the menfolk really enjoyed their artisan beers and manly cocktails (my husband's new favorite drink is a Dark and Stormy). But my favorite part of the night was dessert. I'm told Rebekah Turshen does the desserts and I'd met her at a Slow Food Nashville event and had some of her linzer cookies--yum). The husband had a chocolate terrina (so chocolatey, so smooooooth) and I had one scoop each of salted caramel gelato (not quiiiiiite salted caramelly enough, but very good) and chocolate orange gelato (superb). An apple dessert was topped with a mascarpone gelato that was also amazingly delicious.

So I don't know that we'll ever go back to City House, but I will say that it's got a fun atmosphere and a great bar area. Just limit your group size and come ready to dine on some swine.

Shew. I'm still kind of de-toxing from all that restaurant food. Though we only have about four more months of freedom until we're tethered with a newborn, so I expect we'll be dining out a lot this winter!

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For the Significant Omnivore's birthday, I decided to surprise him by going to a new restaurant. Chachah hadn't been open very long, but was already getting a lot of good comments. And since I'm a fan of its sister restaurant, PM, I knew it would be good.

The menu is tapas style, which isn't new around here, but the eclectic collection of options is very different from what other restaurants are serving. Certainly, some of the dishes have an Asian influence, but there's Moroccan, South American and many other influences as well.

We started out with a combination of three dips--the white bean and fennel (good but not great), artichoke and parmesan tapenade (very good), and Spanish olive pimiento and cheese (my favorite). The dips come with a selection of breads (you'll run out, but they will graciously bring more).

The tapas and raciones menu is huge, though there's only one vegetarian option in the "raciones." But one could make a meal off the dips and tapas only (or a salad, which was tempting). But I knew the SO would order a large plate and I'd be on my own with the tapas, so I tried out the Perserved Lemon-Artichoke Barigoule. It's a mixture of vegetables and wild mushrooms over a black- lentil rice cake. It's similar to a tagine (and is served in a dish reminiscent of a tagine) and the addition of the cake makes it very hearty. I'd forgotten the exact name of the dish and was pleasantly surprised by the lemon flavor that seemed to punctuate every second or third bite. Surprised in a good way--the flavor of this barigoule is delicious. And though the portion looks small, it's very filling.

Forgoing tapas and just having dips and raciones meant we had room for dessert. It was his birthday, so we ordered three desserts! Unfortunately, desserts aren't listed on the website, so I will try my best to remember what they were.

First up was a poached pear dish. I believe it was poached in a red wine or sherry. It had a great flavor, but I think the crumble crust was unnecessary. Kind of Cracker-Barelly. Not that I don't love Cracker Barrell (I do), but I expected something a little more demure, I think.

Next up was an orange cardamom cake, I think? I liked it a lot, but the SO did not care for the candied orange bits. They do get stuck in your teeth and sort of create a not-so-great last impression. The flavor was excellent, though.

The third dessert was a coconut flan...and some other flavor that I'm kicking myself for not remembering because this dessert was far and away our favorite. Our favorite taste of the night, really. It's an excellent way to end a meal at Chachah, so I definitely recommend saving room for it if you go.

There have been some criticisms of Chachah for its expense. For some of us, it's not going to be an everyday place. But for those of us who don't go out very often and enjoy fine food when we do, it's nice to know it's an option. Frankly, I don't have an "everyday" place. Unless you count my kitchen. It's always a special occasion when we go out to eat.

Chachah's proximity to Music Row and trendy neighborhoods means that, well, there are going to be Music Row and trendy types eating there. Even though it was a Thursday night when we visited, the place was packed by the time we left around 8pm and it was full of people who were dressed by and/or inspired by stylists (did they notice my Gap pants? I hope not). And there were lots of people who knew each other well enough to great one another with double cheek kisses. We sat on the patio but it was too cold to have the doors open, so with all that metal, glass and concrete (and trendy Music Row types well lubricated with specialty libations), it can get pretty loud. This is not the place for a romantic or intimate meal.

The other thing to say is that the service was really good. The server knew the menu very well, though I'm not sure he was the best person to recommend a seafood dish. He didn't seem to be a fan and I think the SO would have been happier with the salmon instead of the scallops. But he was very knowledgeable and attentive and we never waited long for anything we needed. I'll definitely be back this spring and summer when they open up the doors on the patio. I love dining al fresco.

Chachah
2013 Belmont Blvd
Closed Tuesdays!