Delicious food means a lot to me. So much, in fact, that over a lifetime my discernment on the subject has moved deeper in the direction of home cooking. Home is the place where the cook can be selective of ingredients and can inspire engaging and mannerly companionship.
I cannot imagine anything more valuable than this experience.
In the day when all the world was a home cook, my grandfather, at times a hotel restaurant manager, encouraged me when I grew up to eat out at least once a week. Most restaurants of his era were a labor of love tended by multigenerational families with cultures to share. The experience was broadening he said. He never could imagine how far things would go in that direction or how rare a really delicious meal prepared in a restaurant would become.
I know you get me. Today it is not a bit unusual to experience a tasteless meal presented mindlessly, is it? The experience is so ubiquitous that perhaps you take it for granted as the way it is. I mention this because amid all such sub parity there are exceptions so worthy and life giving by contrast to be searched out and made a second home.
Epice at 2902 12th Avenue South in Nashville http://www.epicenashville.com is such a place. Or maybe to the point, I recognize that the owner Maher Fawaz is a mindful creator of the sort of restaurants about which my grandfather spoke. Though we have never officially met, I have often dined with Mr. Fawaz beginning first decades ago at Kalamatas in Green Hills and more recently at Epice on 12th Avenue South.
You can count on elegance, courteous staff, newborn ingredients and conscientious preparation wherever he hangs his hat. I committed years ago when my order for meal after meal was taken and served by Mr. Fawaz. With time I became aware that family members joined in the dance which brings Nashville to the broader ever gratifying Lebanese influenced foods served for lunch and dinner now showing at Epice. All selections are worthwhile, specialties in fact.
The menu is concise. I appreciate such a rarity. In fact, that is the reason that I’ve been able to keep track and sample everything. Not once have I departed feeling anything but truly fed. When I go to lunch there with myself, I sit at the marble bar and absorb visually the esthetical appeal: soft denim napkins, a front wall of glass framing an inviting patio, the kitchen wrapped in stones, sunlight scattered by way of skylights centered in concrete.
Last time I was welcomed in, I chatted with a pleasant fellow who treated me as a regular. He recommended a glass of Ixsir Rose. I chose Adas Be-silik, a perfect lemony combo of lentils and Swiss Chard to begin. And then I devoured a plate of Fatayer, a trio of small pies stuffed individually with spinach, cheese and sirloin.
I recommend keeping it light throughout lunch because one would never, ever want to consider their experience at Epice complete without what their menu describes as “dessert bites”. All divine. To finish this particular luncheonette, a date tart composed with apricot glaze, almond, apricot chutney and lemon curd was consumed in a jiffy. I attempted to slow it down, but a certain ancestor inhabited me and it was no use.
Hesitate to re-enter the workaday world, I delayed by ordering a glass of Chateau Musar Arak telling myself that a digestif was required but, then who am I fooling? The desire for a sophisticated luncheon was my goal and Mr. Fawaz delivered.
Delightfully he is always around, gliding the periphery with a funny quip here and a nod there. Through the years, I’ve considered introducing myself, but really there is no need. I recognize an enlightened spirit when I taste one.
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