A Capitol Idea
Earlier this week, I was one of a few lucky people to be invited to a complimentary tasting menu of Capitol Grille's Chef Tyler Brown's new fall menu paying tribute to Nashville's tradition of the Meat and Three. I am just going to put it out there, this was the FINEST Dining Experience I have ever had. It was an all senses, 5 hour, Experience that I cannot stop thinking about. This Dining Experience defines Wonderful! I want to thank Chef Brown, Janet Kurtz, the Capitol Grille staff, and the Hermitage Hotel staff for being such talented and kind hosts to my guest and myself. The Capitol Grille staff wanted to get the invited guests' opinions of the new menu, and my opinion is that Chef Brown has hit his stride and has brought his dishes to a level surpassing all others in the fine city of Nashville.
I have been here to dine before, and I will say the dining experience begins at the front door with the valet parking. The valet service has always been polite, efficient and trustworthy even to me with my dented 7 year old aluminum siding bucket, called my car. The service is higher quality than anywhere else in the city, and I would akin the service to the Four Seasons in NYC. I really felt like $1.2 million the minute they opened my car door for me.
I need to clarify, the Capitol Grille restaurant of the Hermitage Hotel is NOT part of the mid-line chain Capital Grill. The Capitol Grille is its own, chef inspired and quality driven restaurant. We had Kimberly, a Hermitage Hotel staff member at our table, and she was mentioning that the restaurant has been renovated with new carpet and linens. I must note, the linens were an exceptional weave and thickness, and are of better quality than what I have at home. Kimberly also pointed out the history behind the hotel and the restaurant, which I have previously blogged about, and can be found on the Hermitage Hotel website, and there is just too much to repeat here. If you have time to read about the history, it is very interesting what role the Hermitage Hotel and the Capitol Grille space played in August 18, 1920 and having the final vote to give women the right to vote.
To start as an amuse-bouche, the chef made a Concord Grape jelly topped with a scroll of mallard duck breast confit, and pistachio dust. This amuse-bouche really got our attention, as it was a nice start of the food event to come. I actually heard people around the table say, "Oh Wow, that was nice!"
The 1st course I opted for was the Kobe beef short rib with a smoked tomato relish with a poached pullet egg over a cracked golden rice risotto, and this was a play on a diner's meat and three's steak and eggs. The pullet egg is an egg that has been laid within the 1st 20 weeks of a hen's egg laying life, and are considered the best eggs. I love braised Kobe beef short ribs, and I loved this dish. It was delightful to take a bit of short rib and dip it into the poached egg yoke and enjoy the richness.
The wait staff was unbelievable this evening. They could answer all my questions about the food, such as sourcing name and location, slaughter technique, and preparation method. They also were on point with wine pairings. Ya know, I am just a simple gal blogging about food, and it was such a treat to have some Silver Oak Cab paired with beef, that now I understand that magical wine pairing concept. Rarely, in my world, do I get to have the perfect wine with each course, so this evening was a real treat.
My dining companion, with whom I shared food with, started with the pork belly and apple Napoleon. I got to taste the pork belly and it was perfectly seasoned, tender with nice crispy crust. I only got to have one small bite of the pork belly, and I was in heaven. Chef Brown came out to talk to us, and he said that the new oven and stove has some crazy level of BTUs, something like 90,000 BTUs. The excessive BTUs, I am assuming, is what allows the outer crust of the pork belly to be crispy without over cooking the rest of the pork. The presentation was really fun with three perfect pork belly cubes and a lovely apple Napoleon.
The Chef created mini-starter plates to let everyone try a different starter plate from what they had ordered. We got a mini-beet salad with drops of ice wine vinegar and a goat cheese fromage blanc. The vinegar was sweet and sour which went well with th beets. The smooth and slightly sour fromage blanc went well with the crunch beets. It was a nice fresh intermediate tasting before my next dish, the soup.
The soup, the soup, the soup. I love this soup. I am thrilled that Chef Tyler Brown decided to keep this classic on the menu, and this night's soup was as good as days and years gone by. They may be a few fat grams in this soup from cream and butter, but as long as I eat it only every once in a while, I think it is ok. The presentation is just fabulous. In the big bowl, there is crumbled bacon and a brie grilled cheese crouton. The server picks up the big silver cup full of the onion bisque, and then swirls the soup over the bacon and crouton. I felt really pampered by having the server conduct the final preparation of my soup. The soup is rich, creamy, with a light sweet onion flavor. At this point, I have already had more than enough food for the day, let alone dinner, and I still had my entree to come.
I opted for farmed elk chops with farro, bok choy and fig sauce. The farro ws prepared simply and straight forward and presented as a fairly plain grain. The farro reminds me of a large barley grain with a a sturdy texture. The fig sauce was a simple figs stewed to a chunky lightly sweet compote. It tasted like the Chef used sugar sparingly to create the fig compote because it was so delicate, lightly sweet and a perfect accompaniment to the elk. The elk really wasn't gamey, but it was a dense and rich cut of meat. The simple farro, the light bok choy, and the light fig sauce were the perfect balance to elk. I could not tell if the figs were fresh or dried. Since I have had fresh figs only twice, and never cooked with them, I don't have enough experience to tell if they figs here were fresh. My guess is they were fresh when the Chef created the sauce. I was only able to eat a few bites of this entree because I was so full, so I asked Jeff to pack up my entree so I could enjoy it another day.
My dining companion got an item from the grill and opted for a rare 21 day aged striploin. The presentation was straight forward with the grill and 90,000 BTUs creating a near Pittsburgh style steak. I love Pittsburgh style, charred on the outside, and extra rare on the inside. This can only be achieved by having a lot of BTUs, and most home ovens and grills don't have enough BTUs. The aging of the steak is really important to concentrate the flavor of the meat. I do this with nearly all my roasts or steaks in a shorter way. When I can plan a beef meal, I like to have to beef opened on a rack in my fridge for at least two days before cooking it. It is really fun to be able to share that trick with guest who demand the recipe for my roast or steak. When I tell them it is all about the aging of the beef for a few days before cooking, then salt and pepper or soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, garlic and honey then grill or roast the beef, they are floored. They really think it is a special ingredient, but no, it is just time and air as the magic ingredients. Anyway, this 21 day aged beef has a really nice concentrated beef flavor. My dining companion was stuffed too, and took half home for a treat later.
So, I asked for a side of mac and cheese because this is the best mac and cheese I have ever had. The truffle oil in the mac and cheese makes the side dish umami, irresistible. For tonight, the Chef pulled out all stops and shaved Bordeaux truffles on top. Believe me, this was a treat that made me pinch myself to make sure that I was really sitting in the Capitol Grille eating such a decadent fungus. I took one piece of shaved truffle and held it in my mouth to try and remember the moment. A few weeks ago I went to a specialty store and stood there for about 15 minutes, and looked at buying one little truffle in a tiny little jar worth more than my weekly budget for food. I just could not justify the purchase that day, but I have been thinking about that truffle, and can see the shelf in my mind. So, I sat in my chair at the Capitol Grille, and really enjoyed the moment with an entire slice of truffle on my tongue, thinking about truffles, inhaling the nose of the truffle, and feeling the texture of the truffle when I finally nibbled a bit off the slice of truffle. I think one of the people sitting near me was saying something, but because I was so focused on trying to remember the moment, I have no idea what he was saying. So, there was some leftover truffled mac and cheese in my side dish, so I put every last bit on my plate before Jeff came to take my plate and pack it up. The next day I heated my leftovers for our dinner, and I got to savor every last bite of the truffled mac and cheese.
The Chef offered a cheese dessert plate. We were stuffed, but we ordered it anyway (I know, gluttony is the word). There were goat, sheep and cow's milk cheese. We decided on three of the cow's milk. The one cheese soaked in port wine was nutty, had a parm texture with bits of calcium peppered inot the cheese, and had a slight port nose. It was fantastic. The cheeses are not the normal ones you can get in town, and I have never seen these cheese sold anywhere in Nashville. Oh, as a cheese lover, I may have to come back and get a take out cheese plate for a mid-night snack.
Dessert, a fine way to end the meal. Our hostess Kimberly suggested that we get one of every dessert and pass them around, and that is what we did. The memorable ones in my mind was a chocolate torte with basil ice cream, crustless cheesecake, and the apple creme brulee. I am not sure how the pastry chef got the essence of apple into the creme brulee, but it was almost too powerful in apple flavor. The cheesecake was really dense and smooth, and what I always hope a cheesecake would be.
In conclusion, I think Chef Tyler Brown has come into his own. His approach to food is in the current era, fresh, excellent sourcing, balancing flavors and textures, and letting the natural flavors come through. The focus seems to be on great preparation techniques for fewer components to a dish, and making each component count. I like this. When there are too many components, the focus of the dish could be lost, and the dish may be confusing. During this special dining event, believe me, there was no confusion in any of the dishes I tried. The ingredients, the preparation, the wine, the service, the decor, the table linens, the bathroom, the valet, the floor, the wood walls, everything was spot on, and basically made me feel like a queen. Folks, I felt like a queen! No kidding. It was tough to go back to my normal life and realize that I am just shy of being royalty. I am sure though, when I do dine at the Capitol Grille again, I will be transformed into a queen again.
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