While they’ve technically been open since May 9, Mason’s Restaurant and Mason Bar in Nashville’s Loews Vanderbilt Hotel fully made their presence known by hosting a media night to showcase Chef Brandon Frohne’s dynamic menu of Modern Southern Fare and introduce Chef Frohne to the Nashville community.
The night began with remarks from Mason General Manager Tony Phillips and Food and Beverage Director Johannes Diel, who both talked about their vision of bringing a restaurant and bar focused on high quality Southern staples to Nashville’s West End area. Partnering with the newly renovated Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, they sought out innovative young chef Brandon Frohne to lead both the restaurant menu and oversee the bar fare.
Chef Frohne then took the floor to discuss his vision for Mason’s and Mason Bar. An at times emotional Frohne spoke of his childhood in foster care and group homes and how he found his calling in the kitchen. Said Frohne “My goal with this menu is to offer a fresh perspective on Southern food and what it means to be a chef in Nashville. I look forward to serving dishes that will excite and engage our local food lovers and visitors.”
Frohne then brought out Mason’s “mascot”, a stuffed boar’s head holding a biscuit in his mouth called Bacon Hamsworth. Frohne, a Runner Up at the 2012 International Biscuit Festival, obviously shares Mr. Hamsworth’s love of the most Southern food staple.
The menu for the evening consisted of a sampling of appetizers from the Mason Bar menu. The first course was called “A Devil of an Egg.” It consisted of deviled eggs garnished with a home made bacon jam and mustard seed caviar. The presentation was stunning and the flavor was just familiar enough to evoke memories of church socials among many a Nashvillian, but the addition of the sweet bacon jam and the bite of the mustard seed caviar took it to a completely new level. Everything blended beautifully and it ended up being the table’s consensus favorite of the night.
Next up was a Dill Pollen Chip with Beef Tartare, finished off with a Pecan Romesco and Kentucky Asiago. This single bite dish was the most sophisticated of the night’s offerings. Chef Frohne’s chips had the table wanting to petition someone, anyone, to put a “dill pollen” flavor chip on the market. The tartare was well balanced with the asiago and complemented the chip well.
No Southern menu would be complete without Fried Green Tomatoes and Chef Frohne did not disappoint. His perfectly fried tomato slices were topped with crab, field peas, feta, and a smoked pepper aioli. The entire dish worked well together and the portion size was great for an appetizer.
Next came Chef Frohne’s Crab Corn Dogs with Mississippi Comeback Sauce. What more can you say about this item that “Crab Corn Dog” doesn’t already convey? It’s a far cry from the deep fried wiener you’ll find at your local County Fair.
The final dish of the night was just called Jars. A pile of deliciously crumbly Olive Oil Crackers accompanied three small jars filled with Pimento Cheese, Lima Bean Hummus, and Pepper Jelly. while all were very tasty, the star of this course was the Lima Bean Hummus, which was laid to rest in short order. The wait staff were helpful in suggesting their favorite jars flavor combinations, with the Pimento Cheese topped with just a touch of Pepper Jelly being the favorite. For such a new restaurant, it was obvious the wait staff had already thoroughly learned the menu and when they suggested a favorite, you felt confident they had actually eaten enough things from the menu to make an informed suggestion.
But the true take away from the night was the Mason’s Southern Provisions Hot Sauce. Frohne’s own recipe, this hot sauce is like nothing you will have ever tasted. Aged and distilled in old bourbon barrels, Southern Provisions is not so much a “hot sauces” as, so aptly described by a member of the staff, a “warm sauce.” The subtle heat was enough to make its presence known but not enough to fall prey to the mass market hot sauce trend of searing your taste buds off. Instead, the subtle heat serves to amplify the smoky flavor of vinegar, garlic, and a hint of those barrels’ former alcoholic occupants. This long time Sriracha devotee is ready to set his rooster bottle aside anytime Southern Provisions is on hand. Chef Frohne could easily give up cooking altogether and likely make a nice living just marketing this sauce.
If tonight’s samples are a true representation of the full Mason’s and Mason Bar menu, Chef Brandon Frohne is going to be the buzz around Nashville for years to come. Mason’s is just what was needed in the West End glut of chain eateries. With an impressive list of local and regional beer, wines, spirits, pre-Prohibition cocktails, and original creations from Patterson House’s Max and Ben Goldberg, Mason is a great place to unwind, watch the game on their wall filling television screen, and chow down on some of the best bar grub Music City has to offer.