The Tennessean – Answer Restaurant: Eclectic, stellar, welcoming eatery in Sylvan Park

Where could a seasoned general manager and an executive chef open their first joint venture, a casual fine dining restaurant in a vibrant neighborhood setting?

Where could the denizens of Sylvan Park community have a welcoming new eatery within walking distance?

The answer to both questions, it seems, is Answer.

This April, Victoria Rothberg and Chris Raucci opened Answer Restaurant in a much-anticipated site on 46th Avenue, next to Scout Barbershop.

The interior is a comfortable meld of modern and retro in monochromatic tones accented by reclaimed wood and elements in metal. Central is the elongated u-shaped bar, with two-top and booth seating on either side. An open kitchen commands the back of the restaurant.

For our first taste, we perched at the bar, a comfy spot for a sip and a nosh.

Chef Raucci has assembled an intriguing and eclectic menu of a dozen small plates and six mains. Consider dukkah-spiced lamb with ratatouille and harissa yogurt; mojo pork with gigante beans, roasted tomato and fresco; mussels steamed in beer with lemongrass, lime, ginger and mint.

Sambal, a Malaysian chili-based condiment, was used with restraint on the chicken dish we chose. Two crispy thighs had a brush of the fiery spice, citrus and ginger. The side of napa-radiccio slaw topped with crushed peanuts provided cooling crunch.

Chili-glazed tofu over black rice, sautéed kale with coconut-curry sauce and queso fresco crumbles at Answer restaurant. (Photo: Nancy Vienneau for The Tennessean)

It’s rare that we find a tofu dish to be stellar, but Answer’s applies.

Chile-glazed squares stretched over a bed of black rice and sautéed kale, encircled by a coconut-curry sauce. Finished with a sprinkle of candied peanuts and a crumbled queso fresco, it’s an appealing presentation and a pleasure to eat.

Our bowl of housemade tagliatelli was a little doughy, but we loved the spring vegetables: asparagus, fava beans, and scallions combined with roasted grapes and verjus.

Strawberries are coming into season, and take a prominent place in the mixed berry crumble, prepared and served in a cast-iron skillet.  Ours arrived warm, topped with a scoop of buttermilk-lemon ice cream, luscious and tangy.