James Beard Award-winning chef RJ Cooper doubles down on Germantown with the addition of a prix fixe place to sample fish, octopus, and other underwater ingredients plucked from Italian waters.
The first seatings at Acqua start Friday, March 18, across a bright, 32-seat dining room attached to Cooper’s swanky American restaurant Saint Stephen (1300 Third Ave. N). The new sibling in the back calls itself a “sea-life avant-garde restaurant focusing on the Italian coast lines,” per its website.
The progressive tasting menu promises 14 to 16 courses that are all seafood (aside from one). Reservations for two to four guests is $150 per person. A chef’s table option for four to eight ($185 per person) offers a front-row seat of the kitchen and additional “surprise courses.” Reservations are currently open through April.
While Saint Stephen’s racy, dimly-lit vibe embraces Cooper’s love for rock n’ roll (it’s named after a Grateful Dead song), his sophomore Nashville project lightens the mood a bit. Teal booths, gold utensils, white chairs, and yellow-flecked walls provide a clean canvas for a parade of plates. Despite Acqua’s pricey, fine-dining format, patrons are encouraged to come as they are (no tie required).
“We want people to come in comfortable and ready to experience something they haven’t experienced before,” Cooper told the Nashville Business Journal.
Meanwhile, Saint Stephen’s ongoing “secret society” weekend tasting counters run through April for $225 a pop.
After leading the kitchen at Nashville’s Henley, Cooper went out on his out to open Saint Stephen in Mop/Broom’s former space in spring 2019. Before putting roots in the city, he worked in NYC under Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin and D.C., where he won James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic at Vidalia in 2007.