Although Vivek Surti, a first-generation American of Indian descent, was well known for his supper-club pop-ups that began in 2011, the Tailor Nashville
owner didn’t have a brick-and-mortar in mind. “People would ask me if I’d open a restaurant, and I’d say ‘Absolutely not,’ ” he says. “I’m not somebody who runs a restaurant, but I entertain a dinner party.” Fast-forward to December 2018, when he debuted Tailor Nashville in the Germantown neighborhood. Tailor mimics the social affairs Surti grew up going to around Nashville: Diners let him know they’re coming (by making a reservation online, capped at 40 guests per night), then sit down with friends at a table already filled with snacks and work their way through a menu that brings together elements of middle Tennessee and Gujarati (western Indian) cuisine as Surti tells the story behind each dish. For example, take the humble catfish: This middle Tennessee ingredient is prepared Indian-style here, with turmeric, ginger, and green chilies. “This is a restaurant,” Surti says, “that can only exist in Nashville.”
Josh Habiger, one of the chefs who started The Catbird Seat, has moved on to open a fine-dining spot in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. At Bastion
, he’s adapted the tasting menu as a choose-your-own-adventure dinner, in which the evening’s 15 flavor combinations are arranged in a simple five-by-three grid on the menu. “It’s a hybrid tasting menu in that we’re not choosing everything; you as a guest have a say in the matter,” Habiger says. The equally unusual layout feels like a reverse speakeasy: Visitors enter through Bastion’s big bar, and a large metal door in the back slides open to reveal the Bastion kitchen, with ten bar seats and three tables. The cooks deliver all the food, emphasizing the space’s friendly feel.