Then & Now at Sinema

By William Harwood / Photography By Shannon Fontaine | May 03, 2017
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The Melrose Theatre circa 1950


Listen. Do you hear that? Those are the sounds of Sinema. Each day, the buzzing Melrose restaurant helps to usher in our city’s culinary present. The first thing you won’t hear is the classic film projected upon the silver screen above the entrance. Instead, each evening’s icon of the art—think Some Like It Hot or Breakfast at Tiff any’s—illuminates the interior and serves as an homage to all the moviegoers’ memories that have collected in that magical space since 1942. That’s because, as you may have inferred from its name, Sinema, in 2014, converted the historic Melrose Theater on 8th Street into a restaurant to become one of Music City’s most distinctive dining destinations. Gone are the ticket boxes, but very much remaining are the art deco adornments, the glamorous atmosphere, and the famous actors flitting across the screen, silent now but still at the party where the past meets the present.

Sinema’s second eloquent silence is the lack of any shouting from the kitchen. “One of my fundamental philosophies,” Chef Kyle shares, “is that we don’t yell. A calm kitchen reflects on everyone, and the vibe spreads to our guests.” “As a chef, I’m a teacher. And remaining calm is as important as locally sourcing.” And, speaking of locally sourcing, Chef Kyle comments on that important aspect as well. “I try to stay as local to the region as possible. Our meat comes from Porter Road Butcher. Our cheese from Bloomy Rind. A small, nearby Amish community bakes our bread. Instead of creating the dish and then sourcing the ingredients,” Chef Kyle continues, “I want to build the dish around the ingredients and be inspired by what’s most fresh and available.”

And the dishes at Sinema, judging by the packed house, are a huge hit. “We like to take the classics and turn them on their head,” Chef Kyle says. “One of our biggest sellers is the short rib with peas and carrots and onions, served with mashed potatoes and the braising jus. It’s a meal that brings back memories for many, playing on the nostalgia factor. We also do playful things,” he adds, explaining his concept of ‘nose-to-tail’ cooking to reduce food waste to a minimum. “For example, leftover potatoes are turned into croquettes. Any meals leftover at the end of the night go to the Nashville Food Project to help address local hunger issues.”

Chef Kyle and his kitchen also break bread with the entire staff, a key reason the vibe among the staff at Sinema feels so much like a family. “We typically have family meal on Friday and Saturday evenings,” Carrie Crawford shares, Sinema’s director of special events. “It’s a time when we can sit down and really focus on each other. Our staff is very diverse and having a meal together unifies the team, making it feel more like a family than just a random group of people who happen to work together.”

That is one of the good gifts that great food shared around a table brings. That is the magic of Sinema. Critics are raving—it’s a cultural and culinary triumph.

Sinema • 2600 Franklin Pike. #102
(615) 942-7746 • @sinemanashville

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