Ansley Cohen

Head chef Will Aghajanian and pastry chef Liz Johnson took the helm of the Midtown restaurant in December.

Maria Yagoda
February 06, 2019

One of Nashville's best restaurants is now emerging from a months-long makeover. In December, The Catbird Seat announced that two new chefs would take the helm in the kitchen—head chef Will Aghajanian and pastry chef Liz Johnson, a Best New Chef in 2018 and Freedman's alum—and tonight, the restaurant re-opens with a new menu and design. 

Aesthetically, the changes won't be dramatic, but will reflect the shared sensibility of Johnson and Aghajanian.

"We’ve been working with a bunch of different artists and artisans to change the space," Johnson told Food & Wine in January. "We’re doing a lot of construction to change it noticeabley from the last generation. It's important for us to be in a space that reflects the food as well."

The menu has changed noticeably from the last generation, too. In fact, it's a "whole different menu" than when chef Ryan Poli, and his brother, beverage director Matthew Poli, announced they were leaving. 

"We’re not making Southern food," Aghajanian told Food & Wine, who seemed most comfortable describing the food in terms of what it's not. "We’re not trying to say we’re making a new Southern cuisine or anything. We’re just using some local ingredients. We’re not putting ourselves in a box of any kind. I think it was more Italian-focused before, and now it's going to be more…I don’t know what you’d call it, American."

New dishes include duck tartare prepared with cashew and rose, bay scallop with rambutan and hoseradish, baked potato aligot with juniper resin, a quince fritter, and for dessert, dark roux ice cream, which sounds delightful. 

The duo, who first met while working at Noma, are leaving no stone unturned, revamping the restaurant's service and even buying "seven different brands of toilet paper and touching them all" to find the best, said Aghajanian. 

As the chef told us in January, the overall plan has been two-fold and relatively simple: "We’re doing a lot of renovations. We’re trying to make good food." But don't get used to anything. "We’re going to be opening with a menu that eases people in, and then we want to change around everything."

The Catbird Seat. 1711 Division St, Nashville, TN 37203. (615) 810-8200.

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