When you walk through the door of The Wild Boar, your first impression is that of a museum. An eclectic collection of items, such as sixteenth-century Austrian throne chairs, rich paintings, unusual porcelains and bronze statuary, are artfully distributed through the lobby and dining areas. Wood-paneled walls, upholstered chairs, mounted animal heads and a subtly lit, glass-enclosed garden enhance the sense of dining in a plush hunting club. Expect to be spoiled.
With its world-class service and wine list, The Wild Boar is, after all, one of the plushest places in Nashville--the sort of place where you might find business executives dining out or some of the town's legion of country music stars celebrating the release of a new album.
The ubiquitous sense of luxury continues at the tables, which are set with Riedel glasses and silver goblets, and, if you choose, gold flatware. Servers choreograph the presentation of each course. They ladle soups carefully into rimmed soup bowls dusted with herbs or scented spices, arrive in unison with entrées under silver domes and discreetly deliver complimentary bonbons and the cigar humidor, if requested, at the end of your meal.
Except by reputation, you might not at first be aware of the cigars awaiting you at The Wild Boar. The cigar menu arrives with the dessert suggestions and offers a small but exclusive collection of Dominican Davidoff cigars. They arrive in the elegant mahogany Davidoff Reserve Humidor, which holds about 20 to 25 each of six kinds of cigars. Its Gaboon lining, a type of exotic African wood that resembles the popular Spanish cedar, contributes to the inviting smell of these mild, smooth-tasting cigars. You can see the humidity regulator inside the lid and note how much time has elapsed since moisture has been added, indicating that the cigars are well kept.
These cigars vary considerably in size and price, from $8.50 to $42 or so depending on availability and demand. Be assured that those listed on the menu will be available on your visit, as the menu is updated daily, and it includes a broad selection of after-dinner brandies, Scotches and Bourbons.
Before you adjourn to the lounge area, where light jazz piano music will keep your toes tapping on Friday and Saturday evenings, you'll have a grand meal. Unless you decide on the chef's five-course tasting menu, with or without a selection from the award-winning wine list, your choice could be a difficult one.
To start, you must try the lobster bisque, a longtime favorite, or one of the savory seasonal soups. Although both the appetizers and salads will change with the seasons, you are likely to encounter a fine version of the blue cheese on curly endive with a hazelnut-Port-rosemary vinaigrette salad at $8.95, among others.
For entrées, you'll find elegant and sophisticated renditions of beef tenderloin or salmon, as well as soul-satisfying duck, lamb or game. Game such as venison, woodcock, quail and pheasant are likely to be available, too, especially in the fall. They will be surrounded with sauces made with silky smooth fruit purees, slow-simmered stocks and fresh herbs. The flavors will be distinct enough to wake up the taste buds but not overwhelm them. The seared duck on a Granny Smith apple mousseline with mirabelles for $27.95 is a perfect example. The lamb tenderloin with the wild mushroom tart and truffle-infused jus for $29.95 is one of the most expensive entrées, but well worth the price.
If you choose a dessert before you head for the lounge with a cigar, you might consider something simple such as the sublime apple tart with its puff pastry crust and caramel sauce. Or you may want to finish with one of the complimentary chocolate truffles or other small sweets that arrive on the table at the end of the meal.
Thayer Wine is the restaurant critic for The Tennessean and a syndicated food columnist.
The Wild Boar
Phone: 615/329-1313; fax: 615/329-4930
Dinner: Prix fixe five-course menu is $65 without wine, $145 with wine. A la carte entrées range from $16.95 to $32.95.
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