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East Nashville’s Pop-Up Wine Bar Debuts With Standout Squid Noodles and Agnolotti

A conversation with Setsun’s Jason Zygmont and Ray Melendi about the new wine bar pop-up, opening Sunday

Squid noodles at Setsun
Setsun [Official Photo]

Setsun Pop-Up Wine Bar opens for service on Sunday, June 23, in East Nashville’s Sky Blue Cafe.

Chef/owner Jason Zygmont and Ray Melendi take over the space at 700 Fatherland Street on Friday through Monday from 5:30 until 10 p.m. The focus at Setsun is simple — they want to serve food they like and fun wine. Wondering how the name Setsun came about? “We operate at Sky Blue Cafe while the sun is setting and afterwards. Setsun was a natural fit,” says Zygmont.

Both menus are concise at Setsun — with between 7 and 10 items on each. The pre-opening menu led off with raw oysters with black vinegar, a pole bean Caesar, and a Zygmont favorite beef tartare with chili mud and peanuts, cilantro, and egg. Grilled broccoli found heat with Korean chili, and his ricotta agnolotti with salsa Calabria is another standout crowdpleaser that diners from Treehouse may remember. Seafood noodles threaded with green harissa, sesame and garlic finished off the menu. For dessert during pre-opening — a chocolate souffle with peanut anglaise.

At the come as you are neighborhood pop-up, all wine is available by the half glass, full glass, bottle, or porrón (a vessel that’s ideal for drinking a lot of wine, fast). With the of a bottle of wine or porrón, diners can select a record, and they’ll throw it on the turntable while you dine.

Eater Nashville sat down with Setsun’s Zygmont and Melendi to a little more about the story behind the pop-up, whether or not they’re hunting for a permanent space (they are), and to learn what and where they’re eating when they’re not cooking for other people.

What prompted the idea for Setsun?

JZ: I’ve wanted to open a wine bar that focuses on natural wine for a long time. With Setsun, we have opened the style of restaurant I have always wanted there to be in Nashville. The only sad part it, I’ll never really get to enjoy Setsun’s existence as a guest.

What are you most excited about going forward with Setsun?

JZ: Ownership. It has been a big risk taking this step and striking out on our own, but it has also been very exciting. We have a very small crew, most of which came over from Treehouse too, that believes in our philosophy and have stepped up to assume responsibilities beyond what I had asked of them. The self motivation and individual ownership that each member of our staff has taken is incredibly rewarding.

RM: It’s been really great just getting everything going. Moving forward, I can’t wait to see what we do once we really get into a rhythm. I’m just excited to be a part of this and eager to see where it takes us. We’ve talked about doing some collaborative dinners with friends down the road so that will be a lot of fun. Everything is pretty flexible considering the nature of a pop-up, so the possibilities are endless.

Love the idea of choosing a record when you buy a bottle of wine. What are your favorite records in the ?

JZ: First, we totally stole that Idea from Cadet Wine Bar in Napa Valley (killer place if you are ever in the area). My personal favorites are definitely: Aja by Steely Dan, Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones, Rumours by Fleetwood and Let’s Stay Together by Al Green.

RM: We think its fun, especially if you get a porron! Honestly, its tough to whatever is playing from the kitchen but I can always go for any Led Zeppelin, Beatles, or Fleetwood albums we have.

Tell me about the food. What’s the inspiration and do you see the menu changing often? How do you describe the menu?

JZ: Because of our having to prep off site and move in every day, we have moved to simplify our style a bit since Treehouse. We’ve had to learn how to coax the same flavors with less ingredients. We are definitely more vegetable focused as we don’t have the storage space for a lot of protein. Ray and I lean towards bold flavors, a bit of spice, nice acidity and always focus on delivering a sense of satisfaction with each plate. I’ve worked in plenty of restaurants that try to serve interesting food and I’m done with that at this point in my career. I’d rather have a great bowl of pasta, some killer wine and my friends around the table. The menu will change frequently with what is available from the farmer’s market and Nashville Grown. There will always be some pasta, a beef tartare, oysters and several vegetable (both hot and cold).

RM: The prep area is off site, space is limited, we have to haul everything over for service every day and its just the two of us prepping and cooking. As a result, we’ve really had to take a look at how things are prepared and executed and the menu represents that. The food we’re doing is, above all, delicious and unfussy. The menu will change fairly often depending on whats available. We don’t have the space to or store much so when an item is done we can roll out a new dish or wine. However, in regards to the food, you can pretty much count on always finding some pasta, beef tartare, and oysters.

Any really cool wines you’re most excited about right now?

JZ: They are all really killer, but our skin contact and our rose are both special. Skin contact (or orange wine) is made my macerating white wine juice on the grape skins during part of the fermentation process and it results in a fuller, richer wine. The one we are serving right now is from Chile and has this bright, lemony punch on the front end and finishes with some rounder, cantaloupe notes and beautiful minerality.

The rose is from a winemaker named Carolina Gatti. We are talking northern Italy. The grape is called Rabosso and there is no reason anyone should have ever heard of this grape, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t. She lets the juice macerate for an extended period that gives the wine exotic spice notes, a little smoke and some beautiful red/dark fruits. This is not your strawberry/watermelon rose, but is just as delicious and accessible.

RM: All of them are fantastic and fun to drink but the rosé is easily my favorite. Its made by Carolina Gatti in Veneto, Italy from a varietal known as Raboso. It’s definitely not one to overlook.

We’re glad you like Nashville. What about the city made you decide to stay and continuing working here?

JZ: There is potential in Nashville. Around late spring of 2018, I was offered a head chef position at a prestigious restaurant in San Francisco and made the difficult decision to decline that offer and recommit to Nashville. I have been fortunate to build a reputation (whether good or bad) here in Nashville. I have a staff of reliable and professional employees and thought it would be insane to, at this point in my career, move again to simply try and rebuild what I already have in Nashville. I believe Nashville is ready for what we are doing.

RM: I first visited Nashville while I was working for Jonathan Waxman, at Barbuto, in New York City. I came down here for a week and quickly realized that Nashville offered a better quality of life than where I was. The people I met here were fun, the food scene was growing and it just seemed like a smart move. When I went back to to NYC I talked to Jonathan about moving. He sent me down here. I’ve been here ever since.

I’ve met a lot of great people while I’ve been here and the food scene has been growing steadily. I’ve had a couple opportunities to go elsewhere but Nashville has been good to me and I don’t really see myself going anywhere else in the near future.

Where are you eating and drinking and what are you eating and drinking when you aren’t working?

JZ: Adelee, my girlfriend, and I eat at Kien Giang at least once a week: summer rolls, spring rolls, a banh mi and 2 bowls of pho is the go to order. We hit up Two Ten most Mondays. For occasions, we usually hit up Rolf or Folk. The 5 points Taco Truck or La Jalisciense for tacos. We also hit up Bombay Palace quite a bit. Outside of work, we usually drink Uncle Val’s, Plymouth Gin or whatever looks good at Woodland Wine or Green Hills Wine Shoppe.

RM: I’m pretty much always down for tacos of any variety, ramen and coffee. Lately, No.308 has become a regular spot for drinks after work. I’ve been finding myself at Dozen Bakery quite a bit. Their split baguette sandwiches are fantastic. If you haven’t had the garlic noodles at Two Ten Jack then you’ve been making a mistake. Peninsula is always in my rotation at some point for dinner and drinks. If I happen to be cooking at home I’m generally making something pretty simple like roast chicken and some rice or a pasta with whatever is around.

What do you still think Nashville’s dining scene is missing?

JZ: A wine bar that focuses on wine made with organic, hand picked grapes with delicious, simple and affordable food served with nonchalant, inviting and unpretentious service. Oh wait…

RM: Nashville is still a relatively new dining scene and there are a ton of dining options I’d like to see around town that I think will slowly make their way into the city eventually. I could sit here and tell you that we could have more sushi options, better bagels and authentic Chinese food but all I really want is a proper walk up cuban coffee window.

Setsun [Official Site]

Sky Blue Cafe

700 Fatherland Street, , TN 37206 (615) 770-7097 Visit Website

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