Fine Dining: Locust in Nashville

Plenty of people know that I love food.  I am a huge fan of trying new cuisines and digging into favorite dishes at new places.  I also make lists of restaurants that really make me happy, and catalog the dishes they make that I enjoy the most.

I imagine that just looking at the percentage of words on this blog dedicated to food might have tipped folks off.

That said, I don’t tend to think of myself as a real “fine dining” connoisseur.  Based purely on flavor, I find that the marginal improvement in taste has rapidly diminishing returns.  A fifty dollar meal isn’t even close to twice as tasty as a twenty dollar meal, on average, and the improvement gained going up to a hundred dollars is even smaller.

This doesn’t mean that I’m against expensive meals.  I’ve had some really incredible ones.  I’m just looking for more than “this was delicious” once I hit that price point.  Still, different standards than usual or not, when a coworker says that one of their favorite restaurants in the country is in Nashville, and that they’d love to drive down and share a meal with you there, I generally think you should say yes.

And a trip to Locust for lunch did not disappoint.

In addition to being really tasty, the meal provided exactly what I look for in a fine dining experience: food that makes me think.  Not every dish has to be unique, but I generally look for about half of them to make me think something about food that had never really occurred to me while also being delicious.  That’s a tall order, and this meal delivered.

We ordered most of the menu for lunch

Locust doesn’t publish a menu online because they’re one of those places that aims to get fresh local ingredients and then make delicious dishes with them.  The menu is also pretty small, but I think that worked to our advantage since it allowed us to order more than half of it and just barely eat everything without exploding.

They brought the food out in waves rather than one course at a time, which was pretty perfect for our pace of eating.

Tuna crisp, oysters w/ iceberg lettuce and Marie Rose, beef tartare handrolls

The tuna crisp was super interesting.  It was basically a take on tuna nigiri sushi.  Very thinly sliced raw tuna, but instead of layering it over sushi rice it was layered over a super light and crispy cracker.  Then, instead of a dollop of wasabi between them, this had a thin spread of horseradish sauce.  Quite tasty, and made me wonder what other fish you could do this with.  I’d try it with salmon.

The oysters were pretty good.  Never had them with a layer of shredded iceberg lettuce on top, but I think that was an okay idea.  I also wasn’t aware that “Marie Rose sauce” was.another term for “cocktail sauce”.  My take on this one is that I oysters without the sauce.  The flavors of the sauce, while nice enough, overwhelmed the oysters for me.  For some people (like my sister), that’s probably a good thing, but I prefer to taste the underlying ingredients clearly.

Like with the beef tartare.  I think of beef tartare as a tricky dish to nail.  You’re trying to find a combination of flavors that highlight the taste of the beef without overwhelming it, but also without leaving it all by itself.  I think that this combination worked.  White rice was layered over an egg and horseradish custard which was intended to be spread over sheets of nori with the tartare and then sprinkled with capers before rolling it all up.  Another sushi inspired dish which really benefited from some careful balancing work with horseradish.  This one really made me appreciate that I haven’t  experimented in the kitchen nearly enough with horseradish.  Something I should think about.

Crab omelette, potato bread w/ scallop butter

The omelette was superb.  I’ve always thought of a good French omelette as a bit of a chef flex since really nailing them requires some delicacy and precision, so I love seeing them on menus.  This one was very well done.  The crab, not an ingredient I associated with omelettes, really was an amazing complement.  The real star of the show, though, was whatever light cheese had been folded in.  Something like marscapone, maybe?  It was so smooth and creamy and perfectly balanced with the egg, it definitely made this one of my favorite dishes of the meal.

The potato bread was good.  Pretty straightforward, and perfectly toasted, but the real star of this dish was the scallop butter.  It was rich, creamy, and stuffed with umami flavor.  It made me think about other umami focused butters you could make.  I’ve made herb and garlic butters before, but now I’m contemplating mushrooms and miso.  Food that makes you think, right?

Fish of the day: battered fried cod w/ pink lemon, tempura fried maitake mushrooms, potato soup w/ cod throats

The fried cod was good.  This was one of the rare dishes of the meal where that was all it was.  Tasty, but not thought provoking.

The maitake tempura, however, had me.comparing it with my memories of fried button mushrooms, a dish I quite like.  The tempura batter, with a texture crisper than a more traditional American frying batter was a great compliment to the mushroom, and I think they’d prepped the mushrooms somehow to dry them out a bit so they could be fried without feeling too greasy.  Definitely contemplating how I’d adjust a fried button mushroom recipe if I were to make them again.

The soup was really, really good.  I couldn’t tell the cod throat from slices of just plain ol’ cod, so this one has got me thinking about parts of fish I’ve never cooked with.  I wonder what I’m.missing out on.  (They also had croutons in the soup which stayed super crisp and added great texture, another thing I’ to experiment with.)

Shaved ice w/ Earl Grey mousse and raspberry powder

Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of Earl Grey.  I quite like black tea, but the addition of bergamot oil is not something I think enhances the flavor.  In this context, though, it was delicious.  I think this was at least partially due to the raspberry powder.

One of my complaints about raspberries is that, like a lot of produce, it’s hard to beat freshly picked for flavor, and modern supply chains don’t really know how to handle shelf times short enough for fresh picked to be a widely.available option.  There are some fruits and veggies that handle modern produce logistics pretty well, like onions, bananas, and most citrus.  Raspberries, not so much.

Powdering them, though, kind of gets around this and gives you an intensely tart and delicious flavor.  Being a dehydrated powder on top of the dessert also causes it to stick to the roof of your mouth so the flavor can linger as you continue eating.

Which, I believe, allowed the Earl Grey to shine.  The tartness already suffusing your mouth mellowed the bergamot, and turned what I think of as Earl Grey’s.biggest weakness into a real asset.

We were also provided a little jar of syrup which we were instructed to pour over the shaved ice once we’d eaten all of the mousse.  It was a cookie butter flavored mixture that hardened sort of like Magic Shell as it chilled on the ice.  I enjoyed the flavor, but ultimately felt that it was a little too dense.  I generally want light, fluffy textures with my shaved ice.  The mousse did that wonderfully for me, but the syrup didn’t despite being delicious.

So, yeah, that counts as a successful “fine dining” experience in my book.  Delicious food, of course, but thought provoking, too.  Locust is pretty pricey, but I’d still recommend you go if you.get.a chance.  Even if it’s just for shaved ice that I spent five paragraphs writing about.






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