Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Live from The Catbird Seat

So September brought us a stressful trial, weeks of single-parenting, and scant blog posts. October brought us a credit card bill full of emotional shopping, catching up on sleep, even fewer blog posts, and a dinner reservation I had been anticipating for months. 

The Catbird Seat is a twenty seat restaurant with a quirky reservation process. Reservations open exactly thirty days in advance at midnight. Because they serve a very limited audience every night and close shop Sunday-Tuesday, reservations are a hot commodity. I tried in vain in February because they had just been nominated for a James Beard Award. I tried in vain in June when our visitors had one request, TCS. I tried in vain in August for my birthday. No dice. I finally got reservations last week only to discover I was double booked. Praise the epicurean gods when the hostess took pity on me and moved our reservation one day later. 

My friends who had already beat the system weren't all that impressed. They felt that the chefs were not successful at yukking it up with the diners gathered around the tiny kitchen. Sure, the food was better than you would find in most Nashville establishments, but the lack of a dress code at the hottest establishment in town killed the mood.  I didn't want their negativity to color my opinion and thankfully it didn't.

We arrived on time, choosing the wine pairings and let the menu unfold. Thank goodness we didn't get a preview or a chance to make requests because 90% of the meal were dishes I never would have ordered if I had had my druthers, including but not limited to: langostine, fennel, kimchi and custard served in a shell far too closely resembling a raw chicken egg. 

It was far and away the best meal I have ever had.  Dishes ranged from a simple cracker jack to a porcini mushroom oreo cookie to tender filet of wagyu beef.  The mussel with edible shell was one of the single best bites I have ever tasted.  I would easily order the cod as my last dying meal. 

I am an adventurous eater and have eaten in my fair share of the country's top chef restaurants, Michel Richard, Wolfgang Puck, Mike Isabella, Brian Voltaggio, Mario Batalli, Jose Andres, Cathal Anderson. Perhaps it was simply because I was able to try things I wouldn't normally otherwise and the chefs were putting forward their best. Perhaps it was the adult beverages.  Perhaps it was the country star seated at the end of the bar. Perhaps it was because we were seated at Josh Habiger's station and I was allowed to chat and ask questions. Perhaps it was because Josh lived in New Brighton once upon a bad break-up. 

Whatever it is, I will be trying to game the quirky reservation system again and again. Now I just need some more excuses to do so. Bring on the visitors. Bring on the promotions.  Just please don't bring on another six week trial. 

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