The Southern is an extension of the restaurant and catering company of Tom Morales. With brands like Loveless Cafe and Saffire and his own TomKats catering company it’s not like he has to prove anything to anyone. To me though, the Southern looks to be his way of making a statement.
It is an intriguing combination of western and modern, with gorgeous, full-height windows and a beautiful view of the Schermerhorn Symphony center right across the street.
The entrance way is marked by some beautiful reclaimed doors that make for a great photo opportunity that several people took advantage of while waiting to be seated.
The inside of the restaurant is all about space, with a long open bar for drinks and raw seafood and a clearly visible expediting window for all the food coming out of the kitchen.
The restaurant is decorated with literally hundreds of pictures of Bill Thorup telling the story of Nashville and a huge cowboy made out of “reclaimed materials”. Yes, that is trash…and it is quite cool!
OK, it is full disclosure time: I am not a food blogger.
There I said it. Confession is good for the soul.
I mean, I write about food sometimes, and I like to eat. OK, I REALLY like to eat. Because I eat out a lot I have always been that guy that people ask, “Where should we go eat?”
So, I write restaurant reviews because it seems like some people care what I think and actually put some stock in what I say.
I would like to go ahead and say that I recently had the privilege to go to dinner with my friends from Spinach Tiger, and I am simply not in their league! This trip is what brought home to me that I am not really a food blogger! I am a meager tech-boy that happens to like to eat!
First of all, nobody ever knows me when I show up at a restaurant and the chef certainly never sends out a round of appetizers for me to try, but that is how the meal started out that evening at the Southern.
The chef chose sesame breaded shrimp with peach and sour sauce, crab cakes garnished with hominy, chili lime buerre blanc and red pepper relish, as well as Louisiana style BBQ shrimp complete with head and eyes!
All were wonderful and all had their own little southern twist. The hominy took us all a minute to lock in on as we were tasting the crab cakes but it worked perfectly and added a textural twist to the dish. The sauces were spot on and added a zing to the sweet and subtle crab.
The sesame shrimp were light and airy even though they had been fried. The sesame seeds on the outside coupled with sweet and sour sauce underlined the Asian influence, but using peach preserves as the base for that sauce was all grandma’s farm!
The shrimp were a little scary! Heads intact and swimming in a Louisiana barbecue sauce that had enough butter, celery and hot sauce to sing to New Orleans. The waiter explained that with the heads on, you were insured that the shrimp were fresh and never frozen.
While we didn’t need any more appetizers, we felt the need to sample two more. Since it is a “Steak and Oyster Bar” we figured we had better at least try some oysters. 3 Blue Points and 3 Appalachicolas went down quickly and were fresh and perfectly briny. I am going to go back at some point and make a meal of just that!
The description of the Dominican Pork just called too loudly to be passed by. I am so glad we didn’t skip this! The pork was in a sweet and savory sauce with hints of cinnamon and citrus and the mango pico was equal parts mango and cucumber all resting on crispy grit cakes. My mouth is actually watering right now thinking about it!
After completely gorging on the appetizers I didn’t think there was any way we were going to eat entrees but you have to be thorough!
We tried to order a bit of everything so we could all share a taste of something. Two fish specials, a brisket and fish tacos. Hmm, lots of seafood, but LOTS of variation!
My wife got the snapper special because it sounded too good not to order! The fish was cooked wonderfully, with a crunchy outside but a perfectly moist interior. It rested on a bed of mashed carrots with a hint of ginger. The dish was topped with an Asian slaw that added a crisp lightness to the dish. I wish this was on the menu full time because it was my favorite thing on the table!
The Mahi fish tacos featured big, blackened pieces of mahi combined with more of that sweet pico from the pork, and a lovely avocado aioli. The side was black beans with a jicama slaw garnish. If you have never eaten jicama, it is squarely between an apple and a potato and is a staple in a lot of mexican cooking.
The fish and grits was a wonderful twist on a classic with a lovely piece of halibut playing the role of the shrimp. The sweet potato grits were an excellent complement and the cabbage added a rustic heartiness to the dish. I don’t like cooked cabbage and I wanted to steal another bite of this!
I was apparently the only iron deficient person at the table because I chose the red meat course, the Ancho-rubbed beef brisket. It was fall apart tender and absolutely full of flavor, but the side dish actually out shone the main! The sweet potato chorizo hash with corn relish and cilantro pesto had me licking the plate. My only complaint on this dish was the amount of fat on the edge of the brisket. I understand that is what keeps the meat so moist, but I would have liked to have seen more of it rendered away in the cooking process. It was about a half-inch piece on the edge of all of the brisket.
Did we need dessert? Not even vaguely, but there was no way we were going to pass on it!
The hummingbird cake was a spice cake reminiscent of a carrot cake with a cream cheese icing. It was frankly the only thing that we had the entire evening that was a disappointment. It was not dry but there was something wrong with the consistency. It was crumbly…but tasty.
The bananas foster bread pudding made up for any deficit. Rich and decadent and a redolent mix of chocolate and bananas that melded together beautifully. I loved it!
The whole evening was wonderful and was made even better by sharing it with good friends. Several of the pictures that actually look like they were taken by a photographer were lifted (with permission!) from the review of the same evening by SpinachTiger. You should definitely take a jaunt over to her site if you want a real foodies take on the Southern!
I look forward to a return trip to the Southern to try out the raw bar for real!