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When a new restaurant opens in Nashville, if it’s at all worthy, there’s a healthy buzz. But when Etch, Deb Paquette’s new restaurant, opened in September downtown, the buzz just kept on going. So much so, we knew we had to take a road trip. The foodie division of StyleBlueprint – Liza Graves, Amy Norton and yours truly – took on the challenge.

Now, you may think, lunch, downtown, really? I am here to tell you, not only is it worth the drive, it’s worthy of many more drives down to 303 Demonbreun Street. The fact that we were all texting each other about 4 p.m. to say, “still drooling over lunch, are you?” supports this argument. Dinner is so expected… try lunch!

Etch is Chef Deb Paquette’s new venture, and for her, it is a big, bold move. Deb’s been behind the scenes for way too long, but has still had her hand in many ventures while waiting in the wings. Most recently, she’s spread her magic on Local Taco in Brentwood and Urban Grub and assisted in the re-organization of Miel. Deb has so many stripes on her proverbial toque, that it’s easy to understand why Etch is an instant success.

 

For those of you who loved Zola and rue the day it closed, Deb Paquette is back with a vengeance. Etch, her new restaurant, continues to please the most discriminating diners.

While at Zola, Deb was the master of layering and melding flavors – ginger, cumin, smoked paprika, coriander and more. Her style was so unique, one could say she created a genre of cuisine all her own. But this go round, she’s pulled it back ever so slightly, creating a more subtle and interesting approach to her menu.

For our appetizers, we chose the roasted cauliflower and a chorizo egg roll. My favorite was the roasted cauliflower accompanied by truffled pea pesto, salted almonds, feta crema, and roasted red pepper sauce. Maybe I liked it because cauliflower always get a bad rap, or maybe it’s just my current obsession. Having ordered cauliflower at many places, this appetizer is a show stopper.

Her presentation on the plate, as always, continues to be exquisite.

The chorizo egg roll with mango tequila sauce, hibiscus cranberry relish and lime crema held its own with our group, as well. Understandably so, it was another example of Deb’s expertise at layering subtle flavors together.

At Etch, you’ll find a familiar medley of Mediterranean spices which defined Zola’s cuisine.

Selecting the lunch entree was tough business. Everything on the menu sounded delicious — we spied other diners’ entrees as well, only to make matters worse. We finally ordered the Shrimp Pupusa and Moroccan Spiced Lamb Sausage.

For those of you, who loved Zola as much as I did, you’ll sense a familiarity in her spices and sauces. Imagine taking a spin to Spain, Italy and Greece, without leaving town. The lamb sausage was seasoned to perfection and was served with ginger grits, goat cheese ricotta, fig mustard and pickled cherries on a bed of greens. The portion size was just right for us all to share.

There are so many different flavors on this plate, it’s hard to know where to begin–simply delicious.

Served next was the Shrimp Pupusa. I, for one, had no idea what a pupusa was. But, apparently, if you hang out on Nolensville Road long enough, you’ll find out. A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of a thick corn meal tortilla. It is usually layered with queso and a meat. Deb’s Shrimp Pupusa was a pupusa with some punch. It arrived at our table with both manchego and queso cheese, a Peruvian butternut slaw and smoked tomato sauce. With forks flying, we fought for the last bite.

If you’ve never tried a pupusa, Etch’s version of this traditional Salvadorian fare is worth a try.

The offering of side dishes gave us pause. They all sounded incredible, but we narrowed it down to the roasted okra and charbroiled Brussels sprouts — again, two more misunderstood vegetables. Each was simply presented and divine. The art of not overcooking these types of vegetables goes unsaid. Both still had enough crunch and flavors galore.

If you hated Brussels sprouts as a kid, get over it. These were charred and lightly seasoned.

By serving the okra roasted, the natural flavors emerge, giving this vegetable a slight crunch.

One of Etch’s hidden secrets is their pastry chef, Megan Williams. Megan also has lots of stripes on her resume, having been the pastry chef at Provence and the Capitol Grille, and she brings her skilled hand to the dessert menu. The two desserts we selected were To.Die.For. When they arrived at the table, there were audible “ooh’s and aaah’s.”

If the forks were flying with the shrimp pupusa, they were in overdrive with dessert. The flourless fudge cake presented with chocolate caramel mousse, coffee pot de creme, milk chocolate crunch, caramel sauce and whipped creme was gobbled up. Just as pretty on the plate was the fruit galette. Served on a plum and white chocolate tart, with lemongrass ice cream, Lincoln peach sauce and white chocolate crumbles! Whew! I ordered a hearty cup of ‘jo, just to muster up the energy to get my car from the valet and drive.

Believe it or not, this yummy dessert is flourless and completely gluten-free.

 

The pastry was light and delicate and the inclusion of lemongrass ice cream a stroke of brilliance.

A meal like the one we had a Etch deserves an interlude, but sadly, the school hook-up line awaited.

Before signing off, I want to show you the party room at Etch. It’s so gorgeous in it’s simplicity, and is perfect for a birthday luncheon or special occasion. You can whoop it up big time and no one will know you’re in there.

Private party room at Etch

Etch is a special addition on Nashville ‘s restaurant landscape. When the new convention center opens, we all may have a tough time getting in. Etch is a testimony to Deb’s staying power. My hat’s off to the crazy redhead who loves to spice things up.

 

For more information about Etch, visit their website: http://etchrestaurant.com.

 

 

 

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