The Chef & I Restaurant Review: Batter'd & Fried - Five Points Area - Nashville
Photo by Sarah Bailey Photography
written by Erica Rains with help from Executive Chef Chris Rains
It sits non-assumingly in the crux of the up and coming ‘Five Points’ area in East Nashville near Historic Edgefield. It asks nothing more than for you to stop by and see just what a ‘wave sushi bar’ really is. It needs no help in getting noticed; word of mouth has travelled, and the word is good; Batter’d &Fried is a restaurant to be experienced; whether one is in Nashville for a day or a lifetime.
Recently, the chef and I sat down to get the real story. The food, the service, the background, the atmosphere; it’s what we always look for in our profession, and feel a need to share a comprehensive look at the whole package with you, dear reader. What we bring to the table is more than a ‘restaurant review’…it’s more accurately an ‘experience review’, taking into account all that is often overlooked.
The place leaves you feeling as if you’ve just visited some good friends who happen to know how to cook and love feeding you. For me, I couldn’t possibly eat the whole menu in one sitting though the chef and I tried. Therefore, we have to go back a good number of times to experience it all. I am not upset in the least about this truth…you’ll see what I mean.
When you walk in, you get a strong wave of Boston-pub-seafood house authenticity. A cool vibe is evident from the old-fashioned pulley ceiling fan system in the bar to the raw concrete floor. But here’s the difference; it’s also a ‘sushi wave bar’. “You can be in front of the wave, or behind it,” says Matt Charette, the owner. “But it’s always easier to be in front.”
Just like Duffy’s Cliff at Fenway Park in Boston, some items are no longer there to make room for more new and exciting items, but they are part of the history of the place. Since Charette is a huge Red Sox fan, one will see wall hangings and baseball paraphernalia everywhere, reminiscent of his other love. It adds perfectly to the Boston vibe here.
New items often include seafood from what seems like a secretive Hawaiian fish source. Guests feel they are part of an exclusive bit of information when they are told their Blue Marlin or Shark is coming straight from their ‘connection’. Here’s the kicker: from ocean to plate, it’s 36 hours. You absolutely do want to try the fresh catch whenever possible, and the chef and I had the swordfish. I was skeptical; because many restaurants don’t give the swordfish enough respect and remember that it’s dry by nature. Not to worry; homerun all the way to the Green Monster-this fish had a light char and a blackened shrimp sidecar to die for. The chef and I both recommend it if it’s available when you go.
The menu is not want for variety, or quality, but is not too overwhelming at the same time. Ever go to a restaurant and conduct a 30-minute reading session before you order? Not the case here. A few simple pages, still much to pick from, and something for everyone, truly. Sushi night with the gals? Covered. Picky child? Two words: onion rings. Seafood lover? You’ll be in heaven.
While perusing the menu for healthy fare (yes, the holidays have made themselves right at home on me to the tune of a few extra pounds), I found a wonderful surprise by the name of The Julia Salad. Topped with sushi-grade tuna seared perfectly, the salad is amazing. The chef really liked the distinct flavor of the Kalamata olives paired with the caramelized flavor of the tomatoes. He said the creaminess of the goat cheese brought the whole dish together. I said he needed to give me back my salad.
The chef’s choice for a first course was a batch of the famed onion rings. Just like Doug Flute, who hangs in poster form on the wall here, the rings are an institution at Batter’d & Fried. Charette said they actually changed the batter recipe and process, but the people preferred the original way. So, he changed it back. “It’s like writing a song,” Charette notes about giving his customers what they want. “Meeting the needs of the people is my reward.” The rings were crisp, light, and the onions almost caramelized from the inside out, if that’s possible. This item is a must try for anyone, as an appetizer or companion to a meal.
The Green Goddess is one of those sushi rolls that people hear about and go try. It’s even ‘non-raw friendly’ for those that won’t eat anything raw but still love a good sushi roll. The succulent crab, avocado, cucumber, cilantro, green onions and lime all come together with a dash of tempura for crunch…I could have eaten three of these rolls. But it’s not fair to the other sushi. Especially the Shrimp Pad Thai roll which is in a class all by itself. As a sushi lover (and frequent eater), I can say it’s one of my top three favorites in Nashville. The chef agrees.
We tried to eat as much as possible (don’t you feel sorry for us) and snuck in one more delight; the Boston Crème Pie with a twist. Two homemade white cake layers are split by layer of Boston pastry crème and topped with a rum-flavored German Chocolate glaze. One was quite enough for two or more people, and the best part is that this decadent item, like everything else was accurately priced. I let the chef have most of it and tried my best not to dive into it like a toddler in a birthday cake.
A little bit more daring? Try the Volcano Roll with spicy tuna or the Wasabi Crunchy Shrimp. With more than 30 rolls on the menu and many more that the chefs there dream up on a daily basis, one could just eat sushi every day for months and never have the same meal. The rolls are plump, fresh, handmade on the spot, and cover every conceivable flavor profile. The sushi wave bar allows customers to watch theirs being made right in front of them.
The guys that are the ‘glue’ here are more numerous than you would normally find in most organizational structures. If you ask Charette who really makes the magic, he will tell you it’s a true team effort, and that truth is evident in the dishes that come out of the kitchen. The guys in the kitchen are all passionate, and they all are allowed creative freedom daily to contribute new ideas and recipes.
Andy Trexler is the head chef and an integral part of the team who Charette says was crucial in the experimental first stages of the place. As one of four in the Charette-owned cluster, it joins Beyond the Edge, Watanabe and Drifters as a Five Points establishment that is here to stay. An up and coming recent graduate from the Culinary Institute of America, Todd Martin, also brings a crazy passion to the table. “I get to do something here…I get to be involved,” says Martin. And that’s why the employees here are just as loyal as the returning customers.
Charette’s father was a French gourmet chef in New England for 50 years, and he instilled a real appreciation for food in his son early on. Growing up in a large family, Charette was taught that going out for dinner was a true experience not to be wasted, and he carries that philosophy through to every item on the menu, every individual that walks through the door, and every employee. The passion is evident in the décor, the flavor and the attitude of the servers. They are laid back but helpful. The chef and I have a ‘thing’ about overly zealous servers, and those that could care less. These folks are perfectly in between.
Batter’d & Fried has a base of customers who travel from all over. One man even based his home buying decision on the proximity to his favorite Boston-seafood-pub-wave-sushi-bar, Charette laughs. But he’s not kidding. The devoted restaurateur is always at one of his restaurants, and if you see him, you’ll notice the instant calming effect he has. Charette is not a ‘head-in-the clouds’ type of guy, and is realistic about business at the same time. “We are constantly evolving and improving. Not everyone is going to love you,” he says, “But we are taking care of those that do.” As an ex-Marine who served in Operation Desert Storm, he knows how to be effective. He doesn’t whine or make excuses. Just great food.
Any way you slice it, you are in for a ‘that was worth the money’ type of food experience that becomes a place you might want to meet an old friend or recommend to out-of-towners. Just as we all strive to find that establishment that the locals frequent when we travel to experience other cities, others coming to Nashville are looking for something good, different, and inviting. This restaurant rolls off the tongue of many a Nashvillian in suggesting just that place.
So next time you’re in the ever evolving area of East Nashville and Five points, check out the equally evolving restaurant that continues to wow patrons who can’t help but return. Grab a sushi roll, a fresh catch dish, some onion rings, maybe a “Black n’ Sam” beer or a cosmo. Ask about the ‘secret Hawaiian’ fish connection, and save room for something sweet. Check out the stuff on the walls, breathe in the vibe; it’s a good one.
And don’t forget to say hi to Matt. Be sure you’ve got a good story to swap, or at least a smile.
Erica Rains is a local journalist who has been eating and writing about it for a decade. She and her husband, Executive Chef Chris Rains, own The Chef & I, a local gourmet catering and private chef service company. The chef’s name may be familiar as the previous Executive Chef of Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon and Levy Restaurants at the Sommet Center (now the Bridgestone Arena) as well. They have longed for restaurant reviews that told more of the whole story, so they started writing them. They are totally in love and live life to the fullest every day…that includes eating the best food, having the most amazing experiences, and sharing them with everyone else. Feel free to e-mail with questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from the photographer, visit www.sarahbaileyphoto.com.
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