Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Epice: Quietly Epic

    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.

     Companion number three ordered Sfeeh, which the waitress explained by describing it as 'Lebanese Pizza.' Of course, when you put it that way, everyone nods and goes, 'yes, I'll have some of that.'

      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.

When it came time for dessert, orders of crepes (Katayef), yellow cake (Sfouf), and a chocolate mousse (Pots de crème) made it to the table.

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.

Praise the lord. Real service. Finally. From the time our party was seated, until two or more hours later when we walked out the door, not one person, not at any time, did we have to look around for and flag down a waiter, busser, or host. All three of those units worked together to see that we always had something to drink, plates were cleared when they were finished, and no feeling of being rushed at any time. Between that, the freshness of the food, and that wonderfully clean, peace-bringing design of the building itself, Epice restaurant is a place I want to make a regular habit of.

App+soup+entree+tea came to $32.

Epice on Urbanspoon

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