Like everyone else, we’re mourning the missed opportunities to travel and explore as we remain close to home as the COVID situation persists. While we may not be sight-seeing on foreign shores or lounging on island beaches just yet—one facet of traveling that we aren’t missing out on is tasting authentic flavors from faraway destinations. Luckily, Music City’s dining scene is surviving the pandemic for the most part, and some of the most beloved spots offer a taste of something exotic to satisfy our wanderlust. Follow along as we visit a few of the most notable local haunts serving up destination-inspired cuisine that will instantly transport your palate and your mindset.
The arrival of O-Ku to Germantown last year brought a fresh, innovative take on Japanese cuisine to Nashville that the city didn’t know it needed. Upon arriving for your dinner reservation, you can guarantee an experience filled with good music, masterfully crafted cocktails, and traditionally inspired dishes with a modern take. While the menu leans a bit on the sushi and seafood side, there are plenty of options for those who prefer veggies or meat, too. This dining experience is certainly an “eye’s bigger than one’s stomach” situation, but we won’t say choose wisely, because you truly can’t go wrong. We’d recommend sitting back, relaxing, and ordering as much as your heart desires of what we highlight below (and then some).
Upon entering, you’ll be greeted by several adorable Maneki-Neko cat figurines that guide your eyes to the bustling sushi bar, and finally, your gaze is upon the elegantly-lit dining room. The atmosphere inside is moody and upscale, but simultaneously approachable and beautiful. Outside, the patio offers a bit more of a casual and bright ambiance, that offers a comfortable dining experience even in Nashville’s summer heat. As for attire, it swings from casual to dressy casual, depending on where you’re seated. The patio allows for the opportunity to lean more towards the casual side, and you can find people dressed both casually and slightly dressy indoors.
In true Japanese fashion, our team ordered a round of Sake for the table, and we were in for such a treat. O-Ku’s beverage director brought out their incredibly smooth, gold-flake infused, Daiginjo sake, ‘Two Cranes.’ If you’re lucky (like Lauren, our Director of Brand Development) you’ll find one of the two gold flakes that live in every bottle in your glass. Somehow, Lauren managed to get both of them! As far as cocktails go, the overwhelming favorite was the Shogun.
Each team member has a set of menu items that usually wind up on the table when dining at O-Ku, but on this particular group trip, we opted for several chef’s picks mixed in with a few of our usuals. A crowd favorite, as far as starters go, was the Usuzukuri. Perfectly plated, thinly sliced salmon seasoned with black lava salt, garnished with wasabi stem, over a truffle ponzu sauce. If you’d like to opt for a veggie-based option, Tomorokoshi, their take on street corn, while not entirely traditional, is entirely delicious. As you move into the sushi portion of the evening, we’d recommend the Shogun (apparently we enjoy both sushi and cocktails with this name), Playboy, and the Shrimp Tempura. To round out the evening if you find yourself with a sweet tooth, O-Ku’s chocolate crepe cake is worth its inevitable calorie intake.