At first I had a hard time locating the restaurant. I didn't see a sign from the road, and the immense long line of people waiting for Jeni's Ice Cream obscured any view that would have hinted that a restaurant lay behind it. After circling the block and just walking, we finally found it and were greeted by an open space with a large central bar. The decor is clean, dark and sexy, with lots of bench seating with pillows and large communal tables (which I'm still not a fan of).
A rather un-enthused and gruff hostess tried to sit us at a table that had a large concrete window pane running right through where I was supposed to sit. I would have been pressed up against a large uncomfortable beam, and we both agreed that this was the worst possible table in the restaurant (and a table shouldn't have been put there in the first place). When we asked if we could move due to the large concrete industrial intrusion, the hostess wasn't very friendly and didn't really offer any alternatives. We noticed that the patio out back was open, and requested to sit there. I don't know why another table or the patio wasn't offered, but after some back and forth we found a nice place outside on a cool night with good fans.
Once we were seated our waiter was very polite and friendly. I started with the Eastsider cocktail, made with gin, lime, cucumber and simple syrup. This drink was well balanced and very light, perfect for a hot Nashville summer night. I really liked how the citrus wasn't overwhelming and it let the gentle cucumber flavor shine through.
If you have been reading me for a while, you know that I prefer the parts of the animal that some tend to describe as "gross." Both my Mom and I love beef tongue, so this appetizer choice was a must. It was served on a sweet corn puree with a green tomato and cilantro salad. I loved how thick the pieces of tongue were sliced, making them extremely meaty. The braise of the meat made the top crispy and really added to the flavor while sealing in all the juices. The meat itself was tender, buttery and just fell apart in your mouth. The corn puree was sweet but the serving was small. They really should consider adding a bit more to the plate. The salad was a nice addition, adding some flavor and freshness to the plate, which complemented the heavy meat.
One of the features I enjoyed on the Josephine menu was the prominence of the vegetable options. They all sounded very amazing, but we decided on the grilled rainbow carrots with curry granola, dill and a buttermilk vinaigrette. The presentation was amazing, with the carrots stacked row on row like a log cabin, creating a tall, elegant carrot-based structure. The carrots had a heavy smokey flavor, and upon asking our very friendly waiter, he informed us that they used hickory to smoke the carrots. The wood flavors blended nicely with the curried granola bits (which included oats and dried fruits.) The buttermilk sauce was weak in the mix and I felt it could have been more prominent on the plate to increase that nice tangy note. What I did have of the sauce was so delicious that I scraped up every last bit from the plate.
When my Mom and I eat together we usually order two entrees and split them. The first offering was the beef cheeks with charred corn, green beans, leeks, and potatoes with a sweet onion glaze. The beef was rich and hearty while being tender. You can taste the sweet marinade and the hearty fat marbling. I'm normally not a fan of green beans, but these were great, due to what I assumed was about half a stick of butter coating all the vegetables. The mixture of the corn, beans and potatoes was an interesting take on traditional succotash and really livened up the heavy meat. This dish was outstanding, and highly recommended.
The second entree was the duck breast with creamed corn, trumpet mushrooms and herb oil. The best part of this dish was the duck skin that was crisped up and laid on top. Few things make me as happy as duck fat/skin. The duck meat was very juicy, red, and perfectly cooked. The quality of this duck was very high, with a rather low fat content and flavorful meat. I really liked the cream corn on the bottom (causing me to realize that most of our dishes featured some form of corn). The cream corn was very thick, and reminded me more of a hearty corn pudding. The mushrooms were somewhat potato-like, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention how the herb oil lightened up everything, including the savory meat.
For some reason after all that food, I still had room for dessert. How was this possible? I chose their interpretation of a peach shortcake, made with a sweet biscuit, peaches, blackberry sauce and whipped cream. The whipped cream was so light and fluffy the glutton in me wanted heaping cupfuls dumped on top. The biscuit was impressively sweet and light, not at all too dense. I think I might have to learn how to make a sweet biscuit now. The peaches were fresh and sweet and the tartness of the blackberry was a nice compliment to the sweet-overload.
I was very impressed with Josephine. Every dish we had was well thought-out and beautifully crafted. Despite our surly hostess, our waiter and the rest of the staff were helpful, knowledgeable and prompt. The outside patio was a lovely spot to dine, although next time I would like to try the main dining room. And trust me, there will be a next time. Very soon!