Floor-to-ceiling red cedar walls sound like something you would find at a mountain retreat, not in the heart of the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville. Yet at the new restaurant Silo, the wood is as modern as it is cozy. The details are simple, southern and comfortable with a hint of a zen air. It comes as no surprise that this beautifully designed eatery, where every last detail, from the pottery inspired modern dishware, to the bullet hole ridden lighting fixtures, is the brainchild of Paul Cercone, a trained artist, and Chef Clay Greenberg, former executive chef of Virago, a high-end sushi restaurant in Nashville. The tables were crafted by a local Amish woodworker. The bar is made of reclaimed barn wood and those beautiful, funky lights, actually provide a warm wash of light at each table, perfect for reading the menu, but yet the lighting seems low and romantic when you gaze around the restaurant.
While the ambiance certainly set a welcoming tone, it was the menu of classic southern comfort food, with a creative twist that made us excited. We started with the deviled eggs 3 ways, a simple yet refined version of grandma's, feeling elegant, served on a stark white plate. The whipped yolks were creamy, with a hint of mustard. Each egg was topped with a different treat. The first was embellished with crispy and salty fried chicken skin, the best part of the bird. The second was garnished with a small thick-cut bite of bacon, and the third was topped with a pickled cherry tomato and a jalapeno. Somehow we managed to split each one, thankfully, as I would have fought Mark for the chicken skin.
Next arrived the charcuterie plate. The pork belly rillettes, topped with a caramelized onion jelly, was salty and spreadable with just enough texture and tasting deliciously of pig. Fried delicately in a cornmeal crust, the trotters were mild and tender. I promise you, feet have never tasted so good. Silky, buttery and sweet, the chicken liver mousse was outlandishly perfect, smeared on toasted bread. If I lived closer, I would order this by the pint and spread it on everything. The crisp pickled green beans and baby tomatoes were tangy, cutting the richness of the force meat.
I could easily have left happy after those two starters, but our main dishes arrived with equal splendor. The chicken confit was bursting with deep flavor. The meat was tender, the skin salty and crunchy, clearly not the boring, safe chicken dish on the menu, but instead it was something akin to chicken nirvana. Add to that, chewy black pepper dumplins and a sweet onion and butternut puree, and you have the most upscale, home-cooked meal I have ever experienced.
The pork belly was generous in size and delivered a satiating pork experience. The top was crispy, and the interior, when shredded into the country ham and pea broth, was the epitome of comfort food. Still a little al dente, the field peas added a light, fresh note to the dish.
There are things I miss about New England: family, friends, steamer clams, and our cheese "girl" Maggie. Many Saturdays in Dover, New Hampshire, we would pop in, and ask her to surprise us with three unusual cheeses. I learned that there is no cheese too stinky or drippy for me. In fact my favorite was the one served with a spoon, preferably outside, due to the smell. Mark leaned towards the hard aged variety. Therefore, when shown the dessert menu, while the red wine chocolate cake sounded wonderful, the local cheese plate, won our hearts. The Ellington goat was light with a hint of tang, the Sweetgrass was soft and bloomy and the Coppinger from Sequatchie Cove Farm had a nice hard, nutty aged texture. All were enhanced by the sweet fruity flavor of a dollop of peach preserves. While I still say "pee-can" like a yankee, and hoard bags of the nuts because they were expensive back in New England, I am beginning to loosen up and enjoy this local treat with more abandon. After my trip to Silo, I am convinced that these roasted gems, tossed in sweet sorghum syrup, and served alongside native cheeses, need to be shipped back up to Maggie.
As I write this, I am craving a return to Silo. I am out-of-my-mind, dying to try the hot chicken. I didn't want to leave. I could talk to Paul, the owner, all night about his art school in Boston or his experiences hiking in the German Alps and our shared love of hiking the New Hampshire White Mountains, or even the Montessori school philosophy. Silo is warm, yet not fussy. It is upscale, yet not stuffy. It defies cliches and after only twelve days open, I would have sworn they had been in the neighborhood for years. I know nothing of opening restaurants, but I do know that Silo brings southern comfort food to sublime heights at a refreshingly affordable price.