It takes a lot to impress the masses in Nashville's active culinary community. But a repurposed storage container has done just that. The much-anticipated opening of 404 Kitchen in Nashville's The Gulch neighborhood went off last week without a hitch, and we're lining up with the rest of you all to get a taste of the celebrated chef's seasonal menu. Formerly of Flyte and Watermark in Nashville, and FIG in Charleston, executive chef Matt Bolus wanted to create "honest, uncomplicated food in an approachable and unpretentious atmosphere." Inviting and intimate, the 40-seat restaurant (with 16 additional outdoor seats) is a showcase of thoughtful design. Imagine lots of industrial metal and wood, with every nook and cranny within the jewel-box restaurant serving a purpose.
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Matt has built his menu around what he has become known for: Classic European fare with a modern and, of course, Southern twist. Committed to using as many ingredients as possible from local and regional farmers (but without sacrificing quality for the sake of staying local), Matt supplements his dishes with herbs grown on the restaurant's own roof. Try the chicken breast, sourced from nearby Wedge Oak Farm. Deceptively simple, it arrives perfectly crisp atop a marriage of roasted sweet potatoes, caramelized hen of the woods mushrooms, and chicken confit, surrounded by a moat of chicken jus mounted with butter. Even the daily-made fresh burrata underscores Matt's ability to take a classic dish and make it his own. Rumor has it he's working on a pimiento version. We hope that's true.
This reverence for natural elements extends far beyond the plates. 404 Kitchen has committed to keeping waste at a minimum, a notion that wasn't overlooked in the building process. They reimagined an old shipping container, choosing to keep the original color, a bright, warning-sign orange. Wood from the container's floor was removed and carved down to make one-of-a-kind dining tables. Tallow candles provide the ambiance, a process that ensures every part of the cattle the restaurant uses for beef is utilized. The jars will be washed and rewicked then filled with leftover animal fat that burns just as wax does.
The tiny six-seat bar is helmed by general manager and advanced-level sommelier Travis Brazil. Though they can whip up whatever you've got a hankering for, whiskey is the house drink. (It is Nashville, after all.) Travis has stocked the bar with an extensive collection of the world's greatest whiskeys, including four rare finds procured from a tiny region in Japan.
And next month, with the opening of the adjacent five-room 404 Hotel, it won't take much to get home after tasting your way through that whiskey collection.