Although the subtitle of this blog has to do with cheap eats, and Epice, the new Nashville restaurant from Kalamatas' co-owner Maher Fawaz, isn't, that's not going to stop me from sharing my first experience at the 12 South eatery.
Recently I joined a few friends for a meal to scope out the place and we all came away happy. I had a feeling it was going to go that way; a couple weeks prior, I was wandering 12 South, saw Epice for the first time and was drawn right away to the clean line geometry of the restaurant's front window and patio. I decided to step inside just to get a quick peek and immediately noticed the smell of the place (wonderful) and still more geometrics. The overall vibe is rustic, but elegant, simplicity.
A group of seven on a Saturday night, with reservations, went like this: four of us ordered appetizers to share, 3 ordered desserts to share, and everyone took care of themselves inbetween.
I ordered Tabouleh. It was freshly made, and very heavy on the lemon and parsley sides. To the point where I felt like I was mostly eating lemon-flavored parsley and that was pretty much the consensus. This was the only disappointing dish of the night.
Another ordered Fatayer - a trio of stuffed cheese, beef, and spinach pies. These were savory treats in mouth-watering crusts, that immediately won over everyone involved.
Basically, it was flatbread with beef bresaola, herbs, and cheese and we all pretty much loved it. Companion #4 ordered Al-Raheb; a savory roasted eggplant puree with tomatoes and spring onions and a surprising sweetness of pomegranate seeds thrown in. That, too, was a hit.
Up next for me was the Roasted Red Pepper soup. Silky smooth texture with just a little heat, this went down perfect in the winter chill. The dollop of cheese on top was a nice touch.
Someone else got the Adas Be-silik soup, with lentils and lemon. I didn't get a taste of it, but everyone who did was impressed.
Entree decision took weighing advantages/disadvantages. I knew I wanted Epice's seasoned chicken and was initially drawn to Tawoo, sort of a kebob. But, because their entrees came with a side of Peasant Salad, which consists of seasonal veggies, and because winter veggies aren't exactly my faves, I opted instead for the house's signature Epice Salad, and had the chicken thrown in. The Epice Salad consists of your basic, quasi-exotic greens, with roasted peppers and goat cheese, smothered in a fig & balsamic reduction. Oh. My. Goodness. Now, Hattie B's could teach them a thing or two about how to cook chicken to perfection for max tendernesss, but it was wonderfully spiced and overall the dish is something I will return for, along with the red pepper soup. It was just a wonderful combination of sweetness from the dressing, spice from the chicken & peppers, and everything else was added texture and flavor nuances thrown in.
The cake was moist and über-dense and sweet, the chocolate was insanely decadent, but my favorite of the three was the crepe. Like the cake, orange blossom played a small role but the variety of flavors going on from different fruits and the creamy filling won the show for me.
Now, a word about the service at Epice: it is _so_ not the typical Nashville restaurant experience where you get ushered in by the host(ess), then you see your waiter/waitress when they inquire what you want to drink; when they bring you your drink; take your order; bring your food; ignore you until they decide you're ready for your check.
App+soup+entree+tea came to $32.