Some weeks need to end on a good buzz, and I was delighted to head off to a brand new restaurant, Buz, in Columbia Tusculum, as last week wrapped up. Buz is the new sister restaurant of The Green Dog, and as we drove out Columbia Parkway there was a gorgeous bright rainbow in the sky that arched almost down to the diner’s doors. What a good omen! We insisted that our server take time to catch the rainbow while we read the drinks menu. With a name like Buz, this seems like the kind of place where everyone would appreciate a little magic in the sky.
Buz has done a great job with their “wines by the glass” selections, and if they offer to pour you a taste of something, take them up on it. The pours are generous, and we passed them around until each of us had settled on a favorite. My husband enjoyed a German Reisling ($9) from Thomas Schmidt. I ordered a red blend called Dreaming Tree ($12) on our server’s recommendation, but eventually swapped with my guest for his Napa Valley Cabernet from Oberon ($12) that was ruby rich and beautiful — my favorite of the night.
We couldn’t wait to get to the appetizers — everything sounded fantastic. The “Bar Doeuvres” is the largest section of Buz’s menu, and is meant to provide a tapas option if you don’t want to order a full meal. Our server recommended lots of things that sounded vaguely healthy — hummus, edamame, mussels — but we went with everything that sounded decadent instead, starting with Cheese Doughnuts ($10). These fabulous crab and Gruyère beignets are served with curried remoulade that’s delicious but a bit strong for the delicate flavor of the crab and cheese. The honey lime with which they’re already glazed is enough — in fact, it’s perfect.
I’ve been on a caramel popcorn kick lately, starting with my addiction to the crack that is Cappy’s Corn from the Cork N’ Bottle. So when I saw Kentucky Bourbon Bacon Caramel Popcorn ($4) on Buz’s menu, you couldn’t have kept me away. Seriously, I’m sure the edamame is delicious but how could they compete with this holy trinity of badass ingredients? Impossible.
The Shrimp for Maddie ($12) is tempura-ed and served with a mayo-based dipping sauce that’s flavored with Mae Ploy chili sauce, a favorite condiment in Vietnamese and Thai restaurants. We loved the garnish of radish sprouts and slices with pickled ginger that accented this dish.
Heartier still was the Mozzarella ($9), a generous piece of gooey cheese baked with red pepper and tomato sauce, to be spread on herbed flatbread. This dish could really be a meal.
After another round of musical wine, we chose a variety of second courses, starting with two vegetarian dishes. Mushroom Flatbread ($16) is topped with dollops of soft goat cheese and parmesan, and Vegan Bahn Mi is filled with grilled portobellos and pickled carrots and onions, loads of scallions and cilantro, and a mild tomato jam. The bread was a little hearty on the Bahn Mi, but that’s a tiny gripe. I wound up eating the leftovers of both of these dishes the next day, and loved them.
But the two meat dishes we tried were so incredible that there were no leftovers. The Beef Short Ribs ($17) were braised to melting perfection and served over creamy horseradish mashed potatoes, with pureed carrots and parsnips. I adore parsnips and rarely see them in public — they’re sharp and peppery and have so much character. Then we had to try the Caesar Salad with Chicken Fried Pork Belly ($15). Yes, you read that right. It was amazing. The Caesar is composed beautifully on the plate with spears of crisp romaine, anchovy toasts, soft slices of roast garlic and a swirl of dressing, then two slabs of crispy pork belly are stacked like toppled Legos on the side. It was like candy — like a pork fantasia. I shredded the pork with my fork and made little lettuce wraps — the best ever.
We all shared dessert — a sweet tart Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp ($9.50) topped with a scoop of Jeni’s Ice Cream. The only disappointment of the night was weak, watery coffee ($2) — and the sad realization that someone had zealously cleared away the last few popcorn kernels. Guess I’ll have to go back for more.
GO: 3543 Columbia Pkwy., Columbia-Tusculum
INTERNET: Search Facebook
HOURS: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday
ACCESSIBILITY: Fully accessible
MEAT ALTERNATIVES: Vegetarian and vegan options