January 23, 2010
Miel’s location behind Bobby’s Dairy Dip (343 53rd Avenue North, 37209, map here) is wonderfully ironic. But irony is not what the owners, Jimmy and Seema Phillips, are going for. Like their beautiful conversion of Johnson’s Meat Market into a restaurant space of clean, bold lines, the Miel folks are going for straightforward food and drink. There aren’t many fussy cocktails on their drinks list, but rather, only classic ones. The food menu offers expected French brasserie affair: roasted chicken, steak, bouillabaisse, Parisian gnocchi, foie gras, mussels. (Like all Nashville fine dining restaurant, entree prices hover around $25.) With these classic dishes, they’re banking on the quality and freshness of the food raised on their own farm (which is near the restaurant). This is commendable, but there’s a catch here: it only works if the elements of a dish work off of each other to forge a memorable taste. But if the simplicity of the food isn’t savory, it’s forgettable. Overall, our meal at Miel was tipped towards the latter…somewhat forgettable.
We started with the special appetizer, 6 oysters on the half shell. Simple: fresh oysters served with a mignonette that had a hint of citrus. Absolutely wonderful, though the oysters could have been chilled a bit more. AHS then ordered the chicken liver pate. It was a big portion, but distinct in its texture and sweetness. The sourness of the accompanying cornichons complements the pate nicely. I was most excited about the frog legs and escargot app. The escargot was prepared and presented in the classic way: swimming in butter, in an escargot plate. Inexplicably, two fried frog legs were served on top of the searing escargot plate. The batter for the legs had no seasoning–so its blandness only accentuated the dullness of the escargot. For her entree, AHS had fresh, perfectly cooked grouper on a medley of seasonal vegetables, along with some chestnuts. There was nice balance and quality to the dish. I ordered the osso bucco, but was disappointed with its lack of flavor. The meat was not as meltingly tender, nor the marrow as buttery decadent, as I would have liked. The polenta cake was buried underneath bland red sauce.
Service was attentive. Our waiter knew the wine list well and made an excellent recommendation, a bottle of Italian Gamay. Sitting in clear view of the open kitchen, it was nice to see Jimmy cook and serve up the food, as Seema expedited each dish. That’s as hands on as restaurateurs can get. The deserts were just fine. We loved the deconstructed presentation of the creme brulee, a scoop of creme nesting in a beautiful caramelized sugar bowl. Messing with such a classic desert is brave. The apple cider sorbet desert was tangy and delightful, but the accompanying cookies were somewhere in between sweet and savory. The candied walnuts were a nice touch, although the presentation was less than elegant.
Overall it was a fine, but unmemorable meal.