Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

June 25, 2006

more than just a House of Kabob

House of Kabob
216 Thompson Lane
Nashville, TN
At one time, about 5 years ago, the House of Kabob had a little lunch shop in the Historic Arcade of downtown Nashville. My friends and I would enjoy planning to meet there every month for lunch, we would spend joyous time emailing and talking about House of Kabob for days and weeks before our lunch meeting. We would build up the momentum of giddy antipation to the day of our lunch. We would get there at 11 am sharp as to make sure we got in before they would run out of food, we all would order the flavorful lamb shank, slow roasted to Middle Eastern scrumptiousness, and ask the shop owners to add some of the lamb pan gravy to our rice. We would all sit there, not saying much excepts for smiling through saying "Ahhhh, Yummm!" and maybe trying to tell each other recipes that could not come close to how lovely our lunch was. When House of Kabob shut their doors downtown, we felt like we just did not have a real good reason to meet every month for lunch, so now we sporadically meet at other places, but it is not the same as our monthly meeting at our favorite lunch spot. Lucky for us, there is the original House of Kabob located on Thompson Lane and Foster , about a mile east of 100 Oaks Mall (on Woodmont Ave which changes names to Thompson Ln).
The original House of Kabob is one of the most mature Middle Eastern restaurants in Nashville, and is the best in my opinion. I usually get the lamb shank (still trying to relive my famous lunches downtown), kubideh, red rice and sharazi salad. The lamb shank is braised with spices including sweet paprika and cumin and other lovely spices to make a deeply flavorful piece of meat. The kubideh is hand kneaded for about 20 minutes with onions and spices to tenderizer before it is refrigerated. The kubideh is cooked over an open fire to give it a nice grilled flavor. There are vegetarian options like babaganush and hummus. There are other meat options like salmon, chicken, and beef kabobs.
Most every entree is under $12, and really there is enough for 2 meals on each plate. The restaurant is friendly to families, and there are tables that can accomodate parties of 6 and 8. If you want to try some really good flame cooked kabobs at a nice Middle Eastern restaurant, try House of Kabob.

food in the PM

2010 Belmont Blvd
As the name suggests, you will want to visit PM in the evening. I believe it is only open after 5 pm to fit the name. The concept of PM is food and drink after work with a late night menu of Asian fusion bar food. When we get out of a 7 or 9 pm movie, or get of a late plane trip, PM is there to save us with fresh made foods and drink. I don't want to spend an arm or leg on late night food, I don't want just a fast food burger, I don't want to make it myself, and PM is the answer. The food here has been consistantly made and presented beautifully, and the food is great at the fusion of Asian spices on typical finger foods. There are Asian spicy wings, Thai sandwich wraps with a peanut dipping sauce, steak fries, sweet potato fries, coconut calamari (instead of shrimp) with chili and tangy-ginger dipping sauces, peanut sauce fondue, burgers, edamame, sushi, soups, salads and other fun foods. The bar selection is wide and varied for beer and mixed drinks, as well as the Asian tea selections.This evening food and drink spot is owned by the same people (Mr & Mrs Myint) who own International Market, a Thai fast food joint with an Asian pantry food market, across the street. The Myints, over the past 8 years have invented, re-invented the PM space and food, and finally I think they have a winning concept with PM.

The last time we were at PM, we got a Thai beef wrap sandwich which is just delicious. It has Thai spiced beef, carrots, cukes, and crispy rice noodles in a flour tortilla wrap. Very good! The coconut calamari seems like the calamari is fresh dipped in coconut flake tempura batter before coming to me golden brown . The spice chili sauce next to the ginger sweet sauce was the perfect accent to the fresh dish. The Asian wings are awesome, flavorful, and unlike any bar wing you can get.
The seating situation is vast. There is plenty of indoor seating, but it seems that there is no division between smoking and non-smoking sections inside. There is seating outside to the front of PM, and bar table seating on the deck to the side of the restaurant. We sat outside where no one was smoking, and enjoyed a very nice snack/meal. The service at 10 pm was a bit slow because there seemed to be only 2 waiters working for the entire restaurant. There is a seat yourself policy, so it took a while for one of the waiters to notice us. I will say that the waiters were working at a fast pace, but because of being understaffed, there was a wait issue.

One good thing about PM is that there Asian Fusion bar food is great for takeout. Call up, order a wrap sandwich, salad, soup, chicken wings, or chips and dip, then drive back home, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how well the food holds up.

June 18, 2006

Samurai Sushi

Samurai Japanese Sushi Bar
2209 Elliston Place
Nashville, TN

Mr. Choo is from Korea, and has studied sushi in Japan and New York for over 20 years. The way Mr. Choo creates the sushi rice to the proper flavor and texture, makes rice balls to the proper shape and stickiness, expertly trims the fish and then slices the fish without bruising or splintering the fish, shows that he is a well trained sushi chef. There is an art to preparing each element of sushi, and Mr. Choo has put in his time, study and training. There are a lot of sushi hacks in Nashville, but Mr. Choo is not a hack and he has truly earned the title of SUSHI CHEF.
Mr. Choo trims the fish so that there are no major veins left, and that all the chewy white connective tissue is removed, thus what is left is mostly tender pieces of fish that nearly melts in your mouth. On rare occasion, Mr. Choo has also gotten in toro tuna and abalone, which are just impossible to find in Nashville, let alone any landl0cked state. He has enough experience with such fish that it is a sheer delight t0 taste these delicacies prepared by his hands. For the most part, on any normal day, he generally carries all the standard fish that you can get anywhere, but he trims and prepares the fish the better than any shop in town. I may be old school, and want traditional sushi (I bring my own real wasabi that is more like excellent olive oil rather than peppery like horseradish), but Mr. Choo has expanded the horizons of the sushi roll in a very fun way. If you are not into raw fish, there are fruit, veggie, cooked shrimp and cooked crab rolls to try. The rolls are different, colorful and whimsical.
His shop is a small 6 table plus small sushi bar restaurant, which reminds me of a neighborhood sushi place in Manhattan. The decor is all Mr. Choo, and done up is a Japanese kitchy way. When we want to get a little injection of city life, we opt to go to Samurai sushi to feel like we are in a little East Village sushi place. If you want a well trained sushi chef to prepare your sushi, in a small hipster urban setting, come to Samurai.

Margot Cafe in East Nashville

Margot' has a simple menu, usually one pork, one beef, one chicken, one fish and one veggie entree. Nothing ever looks exciting. but wait... For example, I got a hanger steak with mash potatoes and green beans, with a green scallion relish. Sounds pretty ho-hum, HOWEVER, Margot uses the best cooking and solid preperation techniques that results in the best made meal you could ever have. I always say Margot SOLIDLY PREPARES FOOD. I am a firm believer that a good prep process with a few ingredients makes an excellent dish. For example, I make a roast beef that takes 5 days to prepare with a different step each day, and the only ingredients are the roast, pepper, garlic, molasses, and soy sauce. I get so many compliments on it, but it is the care in the process that makes the dish sing. That is what Margot does, she uses the best preparation techniques to make the simple ingredients the best they can be.
I have a standing order that if I am in Nashville, and there is enough disposable income, I will have my birthday dinner at Margot's. I have tried other places to celebrate my birthday, but I felt cheated and let-down by the experience at other places. Margot's is like the best massage therapist you have been going to for years. One day, for no good reason, you try a new inexperienced massage therapist who is slightly cheaper but is flashy, trying to talk too much about kharma and it becomes clear that it is all smoke and mirrors to cover up a bad massage. And then you have to go to Margot's the next day to get a non-flashy fix to the inadequate experience of others. The menu changes daily, and Margot strives to use mostly organic and fresh ingredients of the season. The most recent trip to Margot's we got a bowl of the homemade chips and homemade aioli. It is fun, and a real treat to have chips with garlicky mayo. Her starters are generally simple and fun. The pizza appetizer was simply a flat bread, like the brick oven Persian flat bread, with arugula, red wine and air cured beef (proscuitto like shaved beef, homemade by Margot), and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The simplicity and mastery of this dish was fantastic! The beef was soaked in red wine then air cured in the the tradition of Parma proscuitto, and I have no words to describe the delicateness and beautifulness of this ingredient. Main entrees we ordered were the hanger steak and a pork chop, both were created in a deceptively simple way, but so incredibly solidly wonderful. Again, the construction and preparation is the best at Margot's and I believe the hanger steak is the best I have ever had.Nashville has a problem of chain restaurants with Sysco food service food, and that the dishes all taste alike from chain restaurant to low-end restaurant because is it the same food service crap. Margot's defies all of that, and makes every dish with care here. The ingredients are fresh, and since we do not have a decent organic farmer's market here, Margot has to work hard to find the best ingredients. The experience reminds me of being in an excellent and popular bistro in NYC, where the chef goes to the farmer's market every morning to collect the freshest ingredients for the day's menu.

Remember, the menu doesn't look exciting, but the food is very exciting! The food is simple, excellent, fresh and fabulous. See ya there for my birthday!

June 14, 2006

Mothership BBQ in Nashville

UPDATE: Mothership BBQ is closed at this location.

In general, I do not go to new restaurants because the food is usually still a work in progress, staff is slow and error prone, and the level of stress hormones is high. Well, today I went to a new restaurant for some takeout BBQ because I thought I knew of every decent BBQ place from Dickerson Rd, to Clarksville Pike down to Moores Ln, and I was stunned to see the Mothership when I searched blogs with "Nashville Food". I was intrigued that I did not know of this BBQ place in Berry Hill, within jogging distance from my house, and I made a bee-line there. I get there, I was the only customer. The owner seemed to know what he doing, I got a tour of the place and the BBQ rig, and service was going to be fast, stress free and correct to my order. We chatted about his new business, and then 3 more parties come in after me, all saying they found Mothership the same way I did! - the Blogs!
Jim "Knucklehead" Reams owner/pitmaster, who used to cater and got sick of it, opened the Mothership on June 10, just 4 short days ago. I like the menu, as it seems that it follows the philosphy of do a few things well. There are only 2 choices, Nashville style pulled pork shoulder, and Nashville style dry ribs. If you want to go crazy, order the combo plate of ribs and pulled pork. As I normally do, I get dry ribs, as to assess equally between all other bbq joints I have been to. These are baby-back ribs which are light on the dry rub, deep in the hickory smoke flavor, and done to falling off the bone ease. Knucklehead only serves dry ribs, and lets you decide what sauce, mild or hot, you want to use. As you know from my other blog entries, I prefer dry ribs straight up, as to not destroy the delicate wood smoke flavor.
I gotta talk about the sides! If only every grub joint could make their own sides like this place! I got the potato salad and the coleslaw. I was expecting the same old yellow cubed potato salad and limp grayish-green coleslaw offered by all Sysco food distributors, and are served at nearly every low-end chain bbq joints. To my surprise, the coleslaw was made fresh by this former caterer, it has a nice fresh cabbage crunch, real cabbage color, light dressing, and it has a lovely citrus endnote. The potato salad is also freshly made with new (red) potatoes that hold up to boiling and stirring, and was made with good black pepper, not just the the "on the shelf" tin can of pre-ground pepper. These 2 sides showed where years of catering had paid off. The only other side is pinto beans, dessert is a cobbler, and the drinks are from the soda fountain. The Mothership exemplifies LESS IS MORE, and does each item well.

June 10, 2006

Soda Shops of Nashville

Bobbie's, Elliston, and Rotier's -
The best milkshakes in town!

Elliston Place Soda Shop opened in 1939, and is the longest continuously running restaurant in the same location in Nashville. It is an institution in Nashville, and with a few other old time soda shops closing in Nashville (making way for mega-chains), Elliston Place Soda Shop is TRULY A TREASURE! Here is the deal, food is cheap, it is traditional southern cooking, and you will be served by a diner waitress that doesn't get better than these diner waitresses. BUT there is so much more than the food, there is the SHAKE made the traditional way with REAL ice cream, REAL whole milk, and swirled up at a REAL milk shake machine. We had a chocolate malted shake that was absolutely devine, along with a cheese burger, fries, and a southern fried chicken with turnip greens, pole beans, and mac&cheese. Leave your diet at the door, and spring for a shake, made while you wait! These shakes are the best in town.

Bobbie’s Dairy Dip has been in this location for over 50 years, but owned by Claire Mullally for 7 yrs. Bobbie’s is a drive up hut with a few picnic tables, and serves soft serve ice cream, and hot dogs, hamburgers and the best fries and onion rings for miles around. Ms Mullally studied soft serve ice cream, hamburger, and Belgian fries making with the best in NYC and Europe, so it is an insult to call Bobbie’s food “fast food” and lump it in with other Mc-food places. This place uses all the best old world cooking techniques to create a burger and fries, and it is an honor for me to be able to have such workmanship in my town. To mention the ice cream, it is Ms Mullally’s special recipe with only the best high milk fat content to give the excellent smooth texture that melts in the mouth in a way that no other ice cream can. Be warned, Bobbie’s is closed during the winter, and when spring hits, Bobbie’s is packed with joyous patrons screaming for ice cream!

Update on Bobbie's Dairy Dip fries for 2006. So, I have tried the fries 3 times this year, and I do not believe that the new cook is following the directions to cooking the Belgian Fries. The fries are salt-less, soggy, chewy, and pasty, all indicating that the cook is NOT frying the poatoes twice, the oil is too cool or less than 325 degrees F, and the cook is lazy as to not toss the fries with salt flakes. Ms Mullally, early on in the spring, indicated that she was had a complete over-turn in kitchen staff, and her new cook was not catching on. I suggest skipping the fries all year, and just go for the hot dog and a shake, as those a still top notch.

Rotier’s is kitchy without knowing it is kitchy. The interior walls are wood paneling, there is a bar as you walk into the door, and the chairs and booth seats are the original retro. The menu has all the typical retro bar food and lunch counter fare such as burgers, fried cheese sticks, fries, onion rings, iceberg lettuce salad, chicken fingers, soda, coffee, bottled beer, etc. Much of the fried items, like fries, onion rings, cheese sticks are pre-made frozen food service items. The best part are the handmade burgers that are real beef, not those “soybean food service patties” that a food distributor tries to pass off as beef. One thing that is missing from the menu is the MILKSHAKE. Only those in the know will know that you can order a milkshake, thick and creamy. So, now you know, as with the rest of the world reading this blog: you can order a fabulous thick shake made to order at Rotier’s!

June 4, 2006

Jack's Bar-B-Que in Nashville, TN

I will just come out and say it. Jack's is the BEST Bar-B-Que in Nashville. I mince no words, and I did type the BEST. That said, all words and photos cannot do justice to the how delicious the brisket and pork ribs are at Jack's.

When I got to Jack's I get one of 2 things: the brisket or the pork ribs. There is also chicken, turkey loaf, sausage and pulled pork to choose from the meats. Sides include corn, baked beans, mac and cheese, cucumber and tomatoes, potato salad, pole beans, cooked apples, potato chips and cole slaw.

The brisket is so GOOD! It is smoky and moist. Most of the time southern bbq is pork, so being able to get brisket is a treat, to say the least. The "man on the chopping block" where you order your meat, trims all the fat off the brisket before chopping or slicing the brisket onto your plate, so it is a nice lean meal. The flavor is just wonder and complex, and the visual smoke ring color is fantastic.

The ribs are served "dry" meaning no sauce, and Jack's says the ribs are St. Louis style ribs. At the end of the service line is self-serve sauces. There are all sorts of sauce styles, hot, XXX hot, sweet, and mild. The ribs are quite flavorful on their own, and most of the time the rib meat is moist.

When you eat in, the food is served on styrofoam plates with plasticware, and the tables are fashioned with rolls of paper towels if you need them. I did not post any pictures of my food because there is no picture that can do justice to how good the brisket and ribs are. When you are in Nashville, goto Jack's and see for yourself just how good smoked brisket and smoked pork ribs can be.

Dukes of Hazard Festival 2006

CLICK ON the picture above to see photos from the Dukes of Hazard Festival June 2006 held at the Nashville Motorplex. Or just click these words DukesFest Photos.

If you are wondering, this is the first time the Dukes of Hazard (the TV show folks, not the movie) Festival was held in Nashville at the Nashville Motorplex, which is a small 1/2 mile race track. It runs for 2 days, and the 1st day, over 75,000 people came to see the happenings at a $25 admission fee. The Tennessean newpaper said that this is the most people to be at the Motorplex at one time. Who knows what the 2nd day will bring to the Dukes Festival, but it will be the most people at this location ever for one weekend. Click on the picture or hotlink, so you can decide what you think of the Dukes of Hazard Festival!