Robert Fuller, a chef and sommelier from Nashville has turned the old Omni Hut location into a new, already popular fine dining experience in Smyrna. With the choice of full size portions or smaller tastes of all of their offerings, diners have the opportunity to experience elegant dishes made from local produce with a European flair.
“I am the most indecisive person when I go to a restaurant,” said Fuller. “When a waiter says would you like the chicken, duck, or steak I say, ‘yes’. I created this restaurant for people like me. They can have all three without having three full entrees. I wanted to create a place that is relaxing, and you can get here what you can’t get other places.”
The menu offers six choices for a starter, including soup of the day, several salad options, shrimp cocktail, and a charcuterie board. Soups have included a rich and flavorful beef stew, white bean, and corn chowder. All homemade, as is the salad dressing. The wedge salad with their house blue cheese is a favorite. Like main courses, appetizers can be selected in full portions or tastings, which are still quite filling. Special hors d’oeuvres are also offered upon occasion, like stuffed squash blossoms filled with Feta, Mascarpone, and herbs served with a sundried tomato, jalapeno, and apricot jam.
Main courses include Rosemary Pesto Rack of Lamb, Herbed Pork Tenderloin, Beef Tenderloin Filet, Seared Scallops, Seared Tuna, Herbed Duck, Mushroom Ravioli with Shrimp and Spinach, or Chicken with Mushroom Marsala Sauce. Additional special entrees are offered. Each entrees can be paired with a la Carte vegetables.
The meats are so tender that they melt in your mouth. The lamb is the number one choice of many diners, along with the pork tenderloin and the tilapia special. Some prefer the lamb with the Honey Bourbon Carrots, while others prefer it with the creamed spinach. The tilapia is frequently paired with the steamed asparagus.
Everything is served with detailed attention to presentation.
Desserts vary. Crème brûlée, citrus cheesecake, and bread pudding are frequent options, but Tasting Room also offers in house made Amaretto ice cream, flourless chocolate torte, Key Lime pie, and cobblers, like peach or black berry. For those who cannot make up their mind, there is a three dessert sampler plate.
Wine tastings are another option. Fuller offers an extensive wine list of more than 100 wines. He will gladly pair wine with your dinner. For those wishing to select a number of different wines, there are 2 ounce tastings of wine.
Once a month Fuller offers a wine tasting paired with a selection of appetizers. These are a great way to sample different wines and to learn about wine. He teaches about matching flavors of wine and food in such a way that they enhance and complement each other.
Fuller has obviously put most of his investment into the food. While the interior has been redone to create a pleasant atmosphere with multiple tasting and dining areas, the exterior is still that of the old Omni Hut, and the interior still has many of the elements left from its former life. Yet, it still has an updated relaxed vibe.
“I chose to keep many of the elements from Omni Hut that made it an institution,” said Fuller. “Some people have complained, but I kept the door handles and old bamboo on purpose. I begged to be able to keep the sword fish, sea shell, and turtle shell. They were a piece of Omni Hut’s 60-year history.”
As Tasting Room becomes more successful, Fuller says he will do a bit more updating, like painting the outside, but being a Smyrna resident, he remembers the Omni Hut and wishes to preserve some of its rich history.
“People used to come here for special occasions,” said Fuller, “birthdays and anniversaries. It was part of Smyrna..I opened my restaurant here because I think Smyrna is fantastic.”
Tasting Room is a family affair. Owner Fuller makes a point of coming to the table to ensure his diners are enjoying themselves. His mother, Helen, is the hostess, and she will answer any questions about the restaurant, including telling stories about all of the large black and white photos displayed on one of the walls.
Already the restaurant is getting diners from Nashville who have followed Fuller’s career in the industry. Many are saying that it is well worth the drive to Smyrna.
Previous to opening his own restaurant, Fuller worked at some of Nashville’s most excellent restaurants, including The Standard, where he was general manager for nine years. He also spent time learning the business at Richland Country Club and Union Station.
Seating is limited, and reservations are suggested.
“If you love to try different foods and sample different wines, this place is for you,” said one diner. “[We] will definitely be back!”
The Tasting Room
(Former Omni Hut location)
618 South Lowry
Phone: (615) 975-6266
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 5:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.