Among the infinite list of elevated Southern restaurants in Nashville, Rolf & Daughters has been picked out by magazines like Bon Appetit and Food & Wine as a must-try. Intimate, cozy, and extremely innovative, R&D was without a doubt an experience. With a few communal tables and some outdoor seating, the space does not seat groups larger than 6 (so plan accordingly and consider dividing into two separate tables under two reservations).
Immediately upon sitting it was evident that the wait staff was going to be phenomenal. Our waiter gave a (much needed) run through of the drink menu while we decided what our pre-dinner cocktails would be. With names like “When you’re here you’re family”, “What’s in your wallet?”, and “Just do it” – each with a list of obscure cocktail ingredients below it – we immediately enlisted help from our friendly waiter to uncode each drink. Pictured below, two of us got the aesthetically pleasing and purple Just Do It with vodka, lemon, lavendar, and lambrusco. My drink, When You’re Here You’re Family, was an experience – an initial taste of fruity lime and pineapple followed by a spicy ginger and hot pepper heat, then ending on a charred, smoky note.
Oh, and they cutely hand out pins that say RAD for the restaurant’s initials. A nice little souvenir for a truly RAD experience.
After unclouding the drink menu, our waiter explained how the menu was set up such that the smallest, lightest dishes were at the top and got increasingly larger and fuller. When dining at R&D, it’s recommended that you get a small plate and a larger one per person. With three of us, we started with their homemade sourdough bread with seaweed butter – a bizarre and delicious twist on your average complementary bread-n-butter – as well as three small plates. Now, another unique characteristic about the menu is that each dish is listed as more of a chain of ingredients and flavors rather than an explicit word to describe what you’re ordering. It’s fun, really, and keeps you on your toes. Deciphering the menu is not made any easier by the fact that many of their ingredients are hip and exotic. Before any of you picky eaters and indecisive types start breaking out in hives and stop reading about this place, the wait staff is extremely helpful with describing the menu and they expect to have to do it, so you won’t be belitted or feel like a bother for not knowing what “nasturtium” or “kholrabi” are (I assure you I still don’t).
Per the menu, we ordered:
“Citrus, castelvetrano, watercress, benne, chickpea” (a salad of citrus fruit, olives, watercress, crispy and crunchy chickpeas, and benne seeds)
“Snap pea, green goddess, ricotta vecchio, strawberry sofrito” (another salad of sorts with snap peas in a green goddess dressing with ricotta vecchio, which is like a pressed ricotta, and then a refreshing, thick and somehow savory strawberry sauce – it was interesting and delicious)
“Toast, stracciatella, burrata, olio verde, nasturtium” (toast with burrata, olive oil, and – that elusive nasturtium term again – basically just edible flowers)
My entree was just as flavorfully fascinating as the starters: Ricotta agnolotti, english pea, pistachio, and green garlic. A light pasta dish with english peas and pistachio in a punchy yet delicate sauce with a burst of lemon that shone through the garlic, butter, and ricotta.
Finally, we knew we had to split a dessert and this menu above all made us laugh. We ordered what was listed solely as “peanut, root beer, chocolate, cherry”. I’ll pay you five hundred dollars if you guessed that they meant a peanut and cherry ice cream sandwich made with massive french macarons, with a root beer center with the texture of a caramel fudge core. Ultimately the method of listing flavor profiles over exact food items was far more fun and intriguing than your average dining experience.
A night of experimental dining and drinking, we finished the evening at a bar called Atta Boy where the menu was most bizarre in that it did not exist – you simply tell the server what sort of flavors or liquors you enjoy and like magic they build a cocktail that is a direct reflection of your soul. An absolute must for everyone visiting the area.
While R&D was my favorite restaurant I dined at while in Nashville this past weekend, a couple others worth checking out would be Butcher & Bee and Pine Wood Social (good for food as well as some retro bowling!).