Chef Matt Bolus has assembled a crack team of employees to staff the tiny kitchen and restaurant area, including Sam Tucker, formerly of Watermark, The Turnip Truck and Roast, Inc., as his sous chef and pastry chef, and former Flyte and Aura bartender Travis Brazil as his general manager.
It's fortunate that the kitchen staff has experience working together, because they have crammed a lot of modern culinary equipment into a very small space. "We need Speedos and olive oil to get around in there," jokes Bolus. But the food they plan to create as the result of that delicate kitchen ballet looks extremely intriguing. Bolus wants to concentrate on a menu and wine/bar list that features as much organic/sustainable/biodynamically farmed products as possible, with an emphasis on local producers like the "big B's" of Bear Creek, Bells Bend, Bloomsbury and Benton's all making appearances on the menu. His dedication to sustainability stretches into the architecture and decorations of the intimate restaurant space.
Bolus originally thought that building a dining space in an old converted shipping container would save some money on construction, but by the time all the framing, plumbing and wiring was completed, it was about a wash. But considering how many old shipping containers are lying about unused in the world, at least this is one that can have a new life. Even the candles on the table benefit from The 404 Kitchen's fervent belief in whole animal usage. That's right, they are made from the tallow rendered from the cattle that the restaurant uses to provide their beef. The jars that house the candles can be refilled, rewicked and reused after a quick trip through the dishwasher, which is is pretty amazing if you've ever tried to scrape old wax out of a jar.
From the outside, the shipping container contributes almost a steampunk diner vibe to the space, an effect that is accentuated by the metal and wood furnishings and the industrial lighting fixtures. There is also a spiral staircase leading to a planned rooftop garden where Bolus hopes to grow some specialty produce for the kitchen. When the garden grows out a bit and the lightscaping is complete, it should really be a dramatic urban oasis addition to the Gulch, albeit unfortunately off limits for visits by patrons due to codes regulations.
The menu is still being tweaked, but expect a selection of starters, entrees and family-style sides of approachable modern European cuisine featuring simple presentations of regional ingredients. If that description confuses you, think of an appetizer of a burrata with apples, celery, walnuts and lemon agrumato or a cauliflower dish served with spaghetti squash, puttanesca sauce and grana padano cheese. Go ahead ... think of it. I'll wait.
Main dishes that I'm looking forward to include a cioppino with saffron, white shrimp, mussels, squid and Tuscan bread for sopping as well as the Top of the World Red Wattle Pork with a simple side setup of pears, mustard greens and mostarda.
Bolus promises an oven-roasted beets side dish with guanciale, chives and orange agrumato that will be good enough to convert many beetophobes. (A certain foe of beets should be pleased to find out that there will be no televisions at The 404 Kitchen.) I'm personally excited about the crackled butterball potatoes flavored with plugra butter, pepper and parsley. I'm thinking a few orders of those might fit nicely on my Thanksgiving table.
Entrees will price out in the mid- to high $20s, so while The 404 Kitchen will be attached to the ultra-exclusive five-room 404 Hotel, the dining room should be more egalitarian. As the entertainment options in The Gulch continue to expand, potential diners will be pleased to know that The 404 Kitchen will provide valet parking, so that's one less concern for your evening plans. Figuring out how to get home after a memorable meal and a snort or two from what is promised to be Nashville's best collection of whiskeys from around the world is on you, though.