Nashville has two major roundabouts that continue to confound locals and visitors alike: one at the top of Music Row on Demonbreun and a second near the Music City Center in SoBro. You can identify them like we do, The Music Row circle surrounds a statue named “Musica,” so we just call that one the nekkid roundabout. The other showcases a monument to the region’s Native American heritage with modern interpretations of totem poles in an installation named “Stix.” So that’s the Tinkertoy roundabout.
As entertaining as it is to stand on the sidewalk and watch clueless visitors get caught circling the roundabouts with no idea how or where to exit, there’s a feature on Music Row that’s even more appealing, a gem of a restaurant named Thai Esane. Proprietor Nina Singto moved her Asian eatery to the top of the hill earlier this year after earning a reputation for creating some of the best Thai in town over the years she spent at her previous location on 12th Avenue. The patio at her new space opens out onto the circle offering a fantastic view of Musica and those hapless drivers. Although parking can be hit-or-miss in the neighborhood, Thai Esane actually has a few dozen dedicated parking spots in the Element Music Row building that houses the restaurant, and there’s usually on-street parking available with a couple blocks walk.
The interior of Thai Esane is a stunner, with modern decor and lots of light streaming in through large windows. Although it took awhile for them to get their liquor license, they now offer a full bar inventive cocktails, many inspired by Asian flavor profiles, wine and a surprisingly sophisticated offering of craft beers.
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice before ordering, because the menu is full of exotic dishes that might not be familiar to your average diner. Thai Esane’s Papaya Salad is legendary thanks to a strong umami character from the use of fish sauce and a nicely balanced tartness contributed by lime juice. Just because it’s a salad doesn’t mean it has to be boring, and if you ask for it spicy, the kitchen will light you up! The Esane Sausage is a decadent main course, but it also makes a great shareable appetizer for the table.
Most of the menu is dedicated to curries, rice and noodle dishes, so you’ve got plenty of choices. The Pineapple Fried Rice Boat is a show-stopper, brought to the table in a halved pineapple, but even better is the Kao Soi, a savory curry soup with incredible layers of flavors. Of course, old reliables like Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles are exemplary, but for a really impressive presentation, try Singto’s Whole Fried Red Snapper. Not only is it dramatic to see the whole fish on your platter, but the crispy skin offers a lovely crunch to complement the flaky fish inside.
A new addition to Thai Esane’s repertoire is a festive brunch served every Saturday from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm. The special meal features new brunch dishes including Kai Jeaw Rad Khao (Thai omelet over fried rice), Kai Grata (Chinese sausage, two sunny side up eggs and bok choy), a “Skinny Girl” green tea leaf salad and more. Plus, there are cocktails. Plenty of cocktails!
If you’re looking for a change of pace to your normal brunch routine or for some of the absolute best Asian food in Music City, check out Thai Esane. (Just don’t get caught in the nekkid roundabout!)
1520 Division St.
Nashville, TN 37203