Go Down Henley's "Rabbit Hole" for a Special Occasion

Photography By Jill Melton | May 01, 2018
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Entering The Rabbit Hole from the dining room of The Henley.

The fantastical story of Alice in Wonderland has met its match with Executive Chef Daniel Gorman’s imagination and kitchen skill in The Rabbit Hole at The Henley. Along with his partner in crime, head bartender and mixologist Jonathan Howard, the two have conjured up an experience so whimsical and trick-filled that this “Rabbit Hole” is one you may never want to climb out of. 

“The Rabbit Hole” is the 14-course food and drink experience offered at the Henley, an American Brasserie and Bar located adjacent to the Kimpton Aertson Hotel in Midtown.

I went down this Rabbit Hole this past week much to my delight. (I’ll be the first to admit that 14 course meals are not what I seek out.) From the first precious cup of punch at the bar (during what they call the happiest hour) to the final “carnival of sweet treats” it was an exercise in surprise and luxury.

Photo 1: The cozy neo-baroque nook where the magic happens.
Photo 2: View from the cozy nook.

After a starter punch (made with the pulp of one of their fresh juices) at the bar, we were led through the dining room, stopped at a bookcase and handed a shot (the red pill). I, of course, downed the entire thing as instructed. In hindsight - maybe not such a good idea. The book case magically opened into the bright gleaming kitchen, with a cozy corner behind velvet curtains to a table for four. In full view of the kitchen, it was also tucked away, affording privacy and a respite. For the next 2 ½ hours  we watched the chef meticulously and enthusiastically plate each course.  

Photo 1: "Mad hatters" Executive Chef Daniel Gorman and barmaster Jonathan Howard in the kitchen of The Rabbit Hole.
Photo 2: General Manager James Garrido pours champagne for one of the courses.
Photo 3: Chef Daniel Gorman dispensing the Spring Pea "Latte"
Photo 4: Caviar, hen egg, and brioche waiting to be served.

Each of the 14 courses had their own beverage pairing presented by bar master Jonathan Howard. He and chef Daniel presented each course with such glee and delight  that it was hard not to smile…and join in on the fun with eager questions.

Photo 1: Toro with Butter Bean Miso is accented with the pink buds of the local (and blooming) red bud trees.
Photo 2: Miniature carrots with coconut foam were accompanied by a carrot cocktail.
Photo 3: Foie gras with white asparagus.
Photo 4: The butterscotch tobacco creme brûlée was uncovered in a puff of smoke.

The spring pea “latte” was straightforward enough (and silky delicious), and the toro (tuna) came with a butter bean miso, which set off numerous questions from my inquiring mind. Caviar, hen egg and brioche presented much like the "toad in a hole" was next followed by foie gras with white asparagus. Sweet and salty, the Bear Creek Farms ribs were done as a tribute to Gorman’s time in Korea, and served with gochujang, sake (from local Proper Sake Co.), a shot of fat-washed whiskey and a beer (Miller High Life no less). What dear heavens is "fat washed whiskey?" I was given a lesson, but am still a bit confounded. Butterscotch tobacco crème brulee was served with a lid, that when removed, was engulfed in a butterscotch smoke. (Don't ask how.) Wine was poured with a gizmo that sucked out the oxygen (can't remember the name), and martinis sprung from a disco ball. There was indeed adventure around every turn. 

Nothing was left without thought. Even the “set” in the middle of the table that for a number of courses was a stack of Victorian books and a decanter.  The food was delicious and the drink pairings sure to make your palate and your mind work. By the end of the evening, Chef Gorman was full of stories about couples who had been thrown together in the 4 person booth. Some got along swimmingly, others not so much.

In an atmosphere of mystery and uncertainty, one thing is for sure- if you’re in need of a special occasion dinner for that special person who appreciates food and all the pageantry (and in this case wizardry) that goes along with it, The Rabbit Hole is for you.

Seatings at the Rabbit Hole are at 6pm and 9:15pm Wednesday through Saturday. For more information and to make reservations go to Henleynashville.com or call 615-340-6378.

Article from Edible Nashville at http://ediblenashville.ediblecommunities.com/eat/go-down-henleys-rabbit-hole-special-occasion
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