Meet Rachel Miklaszewski, our Nashville correspondent. Rachel is a Chicago native who moved to Nashville after attending college in Washington. Join Rachel as she explores her new city one restaurant at a time.
Nashville is a city that’s booming. One piece of evidence? The construction cranes littering the skyline as the city makes way for more people, more businesses, and of course, more food. Le Sel, the recently opened New French restaurant however, takes a spot in the more established Adelicia, a condominium building that Taylor Swift calls home.
Le Sel sits in on the ground floor of the building, leaning away from the hustle and brawl of Vandy bars. The glow is warm and stylish, but cheeky. The tables, chairs, and bar stools look like a French café, but the orange-framed old photographs of various sizes on the wall and gaudy metallic flowers on the bar hint at the avant-garde.
My party already knew which wines we wanted upon arrival, but the restaurant’s sommelier was knowledgeable, accurately describing what hints we should be tasting in our Sangiovese and Châteauneuf, both elegant lighter reds.
A note about a few of the people involved in tonight’s evening: the Executive Chef, the sommelier, and the waitress. Executive Chef Rene De Leon formerly worked as a cook in Chicago at the famed micro-cuisine restaurant, Alinea. His move to Nashville to start Le Sel made me anticipate the evening’s food all the more. Moreover, both the sommelier and our waitress for the evening were polite and attentive, but not overly solicitous.
My first course was an easy pick. As a sucker for tartare of any kind, I had to try their Lamb Tartare ($13). The tartare was topped with an egg and encircled by toasted baguettes and greens. The toasted baguette was a delicious accoutrement, but nothing terribly exciting in terms of the tartare’s flavor.
My boyfriend opted for the Ham & Egg ($13), a deceptively simply titled dish with a poached egg surrounded by cured ham. We enjoyed the flavors. The ingredients were fresh and the combination of the salty cured ham against the running poached yolk, made for an easy but delicious treat.
The waiter sold me on her description of the duck confit. “It’s so good here, it practically falls off the bone.” I trusted her with my order, bypassing the steak for the duck dish, and I did not regret that decision one bit. The Hudson Valley Duck Breast ($24) was perfectly cooked – warm and so savory. The two duck breasts were so delectably juicy, and were surrounded by kale and cauliflower purée. The kale went perfectly with the duck, but the cauliflower had me stumped. The white puree tasted light, whipped, almost buttery – that I had to look up my order when I got home to make sure that cauliflower was actually in my meal. Talk about a painless way to eat your vegetables!
The confit was the best entrée I’ve had in Nashville so far, and the other food at the table was also very good. I got a taste of the steak from the Steak Frites ($22) entree (seasoned with rosemary) at the table, but I have to recommend the confit first and foremost. It blew me away.
Since it was a birthday evening, we tried the dessert menu. I suggest you do not. We sampled the Opera ($9) – a French take on tiramisu, but the cake was dry and the chocolate icing too hard. Although the presentation was lovely, the cake itself was not.
What I suggest you do instead of dessert would be to head down a floor to the bar and small plates area of the Le Sel – a cozier, off-beat niche. Equipped with leather armchairs, uniformly grafittied walls, and an impressive cocktail listing, this section of the restaurant serves well for knocking back a drink and leaning into a great conversation.
Online, Le Sel claims that it “honors and challenges traditional French fare.” My hope for the restaurant is that it continues to honor French traditions in its faithful and delicious renditions of French classics, like the Steak Au Povire, and Duck Confit, and leaves the challenge only in the playfully unconventional décor and style.
1922 Adelicia Street (Downtown)
Nashville, Tennessee 37212