Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sambuca Restaurant Nashville - Where good music meets even better food!

Sambuca Restaurant - Where good music meets even better food!

On a gorgeous Spring day in Music City USA, I was in The Gulch neighborhood to dine with Sambuca Restaurant's Executive Chef, Chef Bobby Hansen. Sambuca was one of the original restaurants in The Gulch and has been serving up good music and even better food 7 days per week since 2005!

I had the pleasure of talking with Executive Chef Bobby Hansen about Sambuca's concept and why he loves Sambuca and Nashville so much. Chef Bobby describes his culinary style as “New American Freedom” because he enjoys having the freedom of incorporating any ingredient he desires into dishes without placing barriers on himself and what he creates.

  Check out my interview with him here followed by pics of the great dishes he whipped up for me! 

Executive Chef Bobby Hansen

Dr. April: How long has Sambuca been in Nashville?

Chef Bobby:
  Sambuca has been here since 2005.

Dr. April: How long have you been with Sambuca?

Chef Bobby: I’ve been with Sambuca since October of 2008

Dr. April:
Isn’t there another Chef here?

Chef Bobby:  Yes, there is another Chef here by the name of James Ressor and he works mostly in the mornings/early afternoons and I’m mostly here in the evenings.

Dr. April: Tell me about Sambuca’s Concept...

Chef Bobby: I would describe it as New American Cuisine with a Tex-Mex Twist.  We have a modern Bar atmosphere but we integrate music so it’s almost like a modern new American type supper club. We have music 7 days per week and the kitchen is open 7 days a week. You can call us a dinner theater – Nashville style! We are creating memories for people when they come here. People are paying for memories so we have to deliver that memory. Having that great entertainment along with excellent food and service is how we do that.

Dr. April: How do you develop the menu?

Chef Bobby:
We think about new trends and new food and locally sourced items and we try to make it our own style. There are only so many ways that you can grill an 18oz. Ribeye but we do it with a lot of love and care here to make things a bit simpler. The days of large plates and big food is sort of falling by the wayside and we are focusing a bit more on light fare. We are trying to be kinder to the ladies so we have to have lighter dishes. The diner is becoming more sophisticated and more aware of where their food is coming from.

Dr. April: How often do you change the menu? Every season?

Chef Bobby: We haven’t been changing it every season, but we are about to change it in the next couple of weeks. We have three other Sambuca Restaurants in the country. The one in Houston is the headquarters. We are the Nashville extension of the original. My job is to keep my feelers on Nashville and the trends happening here. I have to keep my ear to the ground to learn what people like and then integrate those into our menu.

Dr. April: Do you all still have the Mac & Cheese? Please don’t take that off the menu…it’s one of my favorites!!

Chef Bobby: Yes, we still have it and it is here to stay

Dr. April:
Great because I love to come in and order “ a cocktail and Mac & Cheese please” LOL!

Chef Bobby: Yes, it’s here for you!

Dr. April: So tell me a little bit about grew up right outside of Detroit, correct?

Chef Bobby: Yes, right outside of Detroit. I was born in Dearborn, MI.

Dr. April: I have a special place in my heart for Detroit because I lived there for 3 years before I moved to Nashville! I still have lots of family there. So, you graduated high school and moved to San Fransisco to study at Le Cordon Blue, correct?

Chef Bobby: Yes. I studies at Le Cordon Blue in San Fransisco. Before I graduated from that culinary school, with honors I’d like to add, I did some traveling in Europe and I lived in Tuscany, I cooked in Chianti (Italy), then I moved to France and traveled through Paris and lived in Tours, France. Having the opportunity to cook in Europe was extremely valuable! When I came back to the states, I did three hard, tough years in the San Fransisco cooking scene……….

Dr. April: Why were they tough?

Chef Bobby: It was a lot of hard work – feeling like I was overworked and under paid. As a new Chef on the scene, others in the industry make you, sort of, prove your worth. In late 2007, I felt that the economy there was declining and it was getting a little tough for me so I figured I would return home to Michigan and rethink my game plan. I play music and have always played since I was a young lad – I play drums. I got back into playing drums and took some time to think things out and that’s how I ended up in Music City! I figured I would check out Nashville and see if my skills and talents would be useful here. I saw an ad for an open Chef position at Sambuca. With Sambuca’s combination of food and music, I thought that I might fit right in. They ended up hiring me and here I am!

Dr. April: What do you love best about being here at Sambuca?

Chef Bobby: I love the concept – it suits my philosophy. I grew up in an Italian Family. My mom’s side of the family is Italian and I always grew up around a lot of food. It’s almost like a natural progression for me to get into food professionally. I’ve also played music for most of my life as well so I get to do both. I get to be in a great restaurant, cooking great food and they give me creative license to come up with interesting dishes.

Dr. April: How do you love being here in Music City?

Chef Bobby: I love Music City! I think Music City is a diamond in the rough. I had no idea what it would be like until I moved here. I feel like Nashville has really extended me a warm welcome and a nice handshake to come aboard. It feels pretty good.

Dr. April: What do you think about all of the recent positive press that the Nashville food scene has been getting lately from The New York Times, etc ?

Chef Bobby:  I think it’s great that the South and specifically Nashville, TN is getting recognized for our food because food consciousness is a sign of the culture. The New York Times has always had their finger on the pulse of food. I’ve been reading The New York Times food section for years. They have great reviews, recipes and food trends. There is something to be said about our food scene being recognized by them. I feel grateful that I am a part of that. I think things are on the up for Nashville. There are a lot of great Chefs moving here and a lot of up and coming local Chefs making a mark on the Nashville scene.

Dr. April: Well Chef Bobby, thank you so much for your contribution to this great Nashville food scene and thanks for taking the time to talk with me today and for sharing some of your awesome culinary creations with me…everything is great!
Chef Bobby: Anytime. Thank You!


Now, more on what I ate............

Lobster Tempura -
I must admit that when I saw all the jalapenos I got nervous because you know I can't do hot lol! However, this has a tangy sweetness with a hint of spice. 
The jalapenos are pickled to take away some of the spiciness.

Shrimp and Grits Old Country style with chopped mushrooms and Cajun Seasonings. This fabulous dish includes Chipotle and Gouda Grits with Pontchartrain Sauce. The shrimp are large and juicy and the grits are creamy - I Love creamy cheese grits!. The sausage is the perfect compliment to the grits and not spicy like some shrimp and grits that I have tried.

Wait for it.............

Miso Seabass with an apple almond a tomato puree with braised bok-Choy grilled radicchio. This fish is so flaky and flavorful!

I'm in love with the garnish atop this fish - it's like a work of art!

Have I mentioned before that I'm obsessed with French Macarons?!?!?

View of the Downtown Nashville skyline from Sambuca's Balcony

Sambuca is located in the heart of Nashville's popular Gulch neighborhood

Peanut butter and Chocolate Torte Explosion with Chocolate Macarons filled with chocolate ganash. This is accompanied by Vanilla ice cream with roasted peanuts, dark chocolate chips and espresso

How gorgeous!?!?!??!

There are some great textures and flavors in this dessert and I love it! The Macarons are light and airy and the torte is decedent and sweet :-)



If you are looking for a great time filled with music and food, make sure to visit Sambuca! You can find them online @


601 12th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203

 --Dr. April

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