Restaurant Review: The Silly Goose
Over the last year we have recommended several local restaurants in and around Nashville, each of which we feel meets certain standards for informed consumers and healthy food advocates to feel comfortable with—restaurants like Baja Burrito, The Wild Cow, and Sloco. One that’s been on our radar since we moved here that we finally got to try over the weekend is The Silly Goose, tucked away in East Nashville. The Silly Goose opened in 2009 and, in its own words, makes “nourishing, wholesome food with love and care from the purest and highest quality ingredients available to us. We search for and buy local, organic, sustainably produced, minimally manipulated food.” Sounds good to me.
The first thing you notice about Silly Goose is that it’s small—there aren’t more than seven or eight tables, plus the bar, and the inside of the restaurant is warm and inviting. What struck me was the mix that room seemed to have between modern industrial fixtures (an exposed ceiling, raw lightbulbs hanging, etc) and a homey, Southern, almost woodsy atmosphere with the furniture and art. (Silly Goose’s napkins are red handkerchiefs; their glasses are jars, and the silverware is delightfully mismatched.) Had the entire restaurant been too modern or too industrial, it could have come off cold—the right mix of old and new, however, gives it an upscale welcoming feel that isn’t intimidating at all. (See in the picture, for instance, an antique chandelier hanging over a thick wooden slab table.) It’s really beautiful.
The food is as much a work of art as the inside of the restaurant. There aren’t many restaurants whose first menu section is devoted to different forms of Couscous, but then again The Silly Goose isn’t like most restaurants. In this restaurant’s case, the menu finds its variety not in an inordinate amount of dishes available (I saw a billboard today for Demo’s downtown that I think was advertising 48 different dishes under $7.99), but in its ability to creatively manipulate different ingredients within a few families of dishes. For instance, there are four Couscous options, five salads, nine sandwiches, and four evening main dishes. Just taking one of these categories, though, each of the four Couscous dishes is so different and wildly flavorful, that there is no shortage of options:
Crisp cappicola, roasted red pepper, almonds, basil, kalamata
olives, blue gouda, and balsamic reduction
King Kong 11
Sesame couscous with curried shrimp, mint, ginger, cashews,
coriander, and avocado
Mexico City 9.5
Red chili couscous, grilled chicken, poblano peppers, cilantro,
goat cheese, mango, and lime juice
Roasted almond couscous, sundried tomatoes, lemon, sage,
red pep. goat cheese, and grilled port. mushrooms
We both ordered Couscous the night we went: I ordered the King Kong and Jessica the Spalding. When I ordered, I was asked if I wanted it mild, medium, or hot. “How hot is medium?” I asked the server.
“Not bad,” he said. “It’s really not. At least I don’t think so.”
Good enough, so I went with medium. Now, the dish was beautifully presented and really flavorful, especially the shrimp, which were cooked perfectly and blended beautifully with the curry sauce. But that thing was the hottest thing I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t know if I’m a wimp, or if there was a mistake, or maybe if I’m just not ready to handle The Silly Goose. But I was dying. Again, this isn’t to say the food wasn’t awesome, which it was, or beautiful, which it definitely was, or worth the money, which it absolutely was. It was just absolutely scorching. But hey—I was awake, and next time I won’t trust the word “medium.” (I absolutely cannot imagine what “hot” would have been like.)
Each dish was great in that it didn’t get overcrowded by its own flavors. There are a lot of ingredients in those dishes, and it would be easy for all of them to drown out the others, but I was really impressed (especially in mine because of the heat) that each flavor still was able to come through. Sometimes spicy dishes murder any hope of getting other flavor out of themselves. Not in this case. The avocado slices provided enough relief between bites that I still got a great feeling for each flavor, and it really was a great dish.
The Silly Goose is a great restaurant, and East Nashville really needs it. It works so perfectly in that neighborhood, and I hope people keep supporting it. In using local vendors, farms, bakers and suppliers, they are super-sustainable and everything a restaurant should try to be. I can’t wait to go back and try something else. A sandwich, maybe. Mild.
(Another quick note about Silly Goose’s service. We were told the wait for our table would be an hour, and were offered to go next door to Ugly Mugs’ coffee. Thirty minutes later the hostess came and got us herself and offered to let us bring our drinks into the restaurant. Not bad.)
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