Do you like Tapas? Yeah, you like Tapas. They’re expensive, but they allow you to try as much food as possible while sharing and discussing your food in depth. It’s a social, flavorful win-win. Especially when someone else pays.
A few weeks ago, we took a family trip to Nashville, one of my favorite cities in America. I’m working on a full eating recap that I’ll post separately, but the Tapas restaurant we hit on night one, Little Octopus, deserves its own review.
In contrast with my usual travel, my family vacations are a breath of fresh air– my parents and sister are wholesome, thoughtful people with good taste and discretionary income, a far cry from the broke degenerates I usually travel with. We treat ourselves right when we vacation as a family; we eat like kings.
Immediately after checking into our hotel on Friday night, we popped over to our reservation at one of the trendiest restaurants in Nashville. It was absolute fire. We went out afterward and saw some killer live music, but the dinner was more than enough to mark the night as a victory.
First bite: Shrimp Ceviche
Ceviche can be hit or miss, but I’m pretty into it, generally – I find the cold, umami taste refreshing, especially as a warm up to some heartier plates. This shrimp ceviche was solid. It was probably the least memorable dish we tried all night – very shrimpy, with a lot of lime – but I think starting with an unspectacular appetizer can be a fantastic palette primer for a big, big night of eating, much like some solid basic bread and butter.
Cornbread with miso butter
This dish also hit its functional requirements, without blowing us away. The cornbread was a little dense for my taste, but it was perfectly toasted on the outside and drizzled in a mouth-watering miso butter. They should’ve drowned the plate in it. But cornbread really hasn’t ever been bad, and it offered a nice sweetness after the limey ceviche.
Empanadas with chicken and black bean filling
Whoa. These bad boys were exceptional – the perfect, flaky crust, not at all greasy like most traditional empanadas. You could eat these babies with your hands and not worry about wiping them after. That leant itself to a really nice crunchiness – the outer crimped edges of the empanada were tasty in their own right, like little pastry crisps. The filling itself was unbelievable – tiny pieces of tender pulled chicken, smashed black beans, and dirty rice packed tightly in to a lovely mush. Served with a cilantro crema to either dip or drench the empanadas– hell yeah. We ordered another plate.
Salad (worth mentioning – it was actually delicious)
Nothing crazy here, just a damn good salad. The best feature – little shiitake mushrooms cured and spiced to taste like bacon. They could’ve fooled me. Also featured paper-thin but refreshing slices of apple. Basic greens perfectly dressed, not drowned, in a yummy, light vinagrette. Firm, dry almonds. Nothing crazy, just a damn good salad. Really, really great.
This dish looked like it should be in a museum, and maybe it could’ve been, had the tofu been swapped for a proper meat. That isn’t an insult to this tofu, which was crispy and really well-cooked, just a comment on tofu in general. It’s fine, even good sometimes, but I’m not putting any tofu in my food museum.
Back to the dish though – the mushrooms were dope. Different varieties all cooked tender and juicy, each offering their own taste and texture. The cassoulet sauce was incredible – rich and meaty – packed with giant white beans and thick, like a more savory Bolognese. This is particularly impressive, given the sauce was definitely made with vegetable stock. A really enjoyable dish.
Best bite: Scallops
Oh man. The last plate we tried was easily the best. These scallops were some of my favorite I’ve ever had. Charred well on the outside and cooked so tender that I got that wonderful, scallop-specific feeling where it feels like you’re chewing pure fat, not one of the leanest and most nutrient-rich foods on the planet. The little touches were perfect – scallops are often served with some sort of veggie puree, but this one, made out of celery root, was thick and mellow and flavorful, almost like the cleanest, lightest possible version of mashed potatoes. Topped with a couple of juicy, orange tomatoes to sharpen the whole dish. Abominably good, just like the entire night.
TL;DR: Killer, killer tapas.