Michelin Starred Restaurant Veterans to Open Present Tense Next Week

photo by Nathan Zucker

Present Tense, a new Japanese-leaning restaurant and sake bar co-owned and operated by Michelin-starred restaurant veterans and long-time friends, Rick Margaritov and Ryan Costanza, will open reservations starting the week of May 16. Located in the heart of Nashville’s hip Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood at 321 Hart Street, Nashville,Present Tense will offer a unique and approachable dining experience with a menu curated by Costanza, plus natural wines, avant-garde cocktails and omakase experiences.

“Ryan and I have been wanting to do our own concept for over a decade, since the idea first came to us when shaking cocktails for friends on a trip to Bali. Other opportunities kept pulling us in different directions until the time was finally right. We’re so excited that the time is now. We can’t wait to welcome everyone and to foster a community in Wedgewood-Houston and beyond,” says Margaritov. “We want Present Tense to feel like a home away from home for shared experiences, a space that cultivates intimacy, connection, and reminds us to appreciate the good times.”

Also joining the team is beverage director Kenneth Vanhooser, formerly of Le Loup in Nashville and 3 Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York. Through Japanese-style bartending, Vanhooser seamlessly marries Western and Eastern approaches to create innovative cocktails that evoke multi-sensory experiences. Additionally, Vanhooser’s innate Southern hospitality makes him a friendly face behind the bar, immersing interested guests into his world.

Chef Costanza’s menu focuses on shareable small plates inspired by his travels and culinary experiences in Japan and Southeast Asia. Favorite dishes include the Aged Tuna Tartare on Grilled Seaweed Sourdough with Sesame Mayo and Wagyu Fat; Diver Scallop Handrolls; and the Corn and Crab Chawanmushi with Dungeness Crab Confit and Chicken Dashi.

The brunch menu features modern takes on beloved classics such as a French Omelet done in the style of Japanese Tamagoyaki, a rolled omelet with fromage blanc covered in trout roe; airy Japanese Souffle Pancakes topped with Maple and Chantilly; and Karaage and Waffles, a familiar dish with an innovated twist done with yeasted buckwheat waffles and Japanese fried chicken.

Present Tense will feature an exclusive six-seat sake bar and omakase tasting, where guests can make a reservation to experience specialty dishes curated by Costanza paired with sake poured by Margaritov. The counter will be an intimate, celebratory, and educational experience on sake and Costanza’s unique culinary background, marrying his cooking roots in Michelin-starred French kitchens with his time working and traveling in Japan and Southeast Asia. The omakase experience will allow guests to connect one-on-one with the curators for a personalized journey learning the gastronomic tasting notes of each course. The encounter will vary each evening, giving Costanza a creative platform to serve unique offerings that aren’t included on the regular menu. Book the experience on Resy.

Present Tense will be the first to debut Margaritov and Costanza’s own sake brand, Pure Land Sake, which is handcrafted in Kyoto, Japan. Other food-friendly sake selections are thoughtfully curated with natural handcrafted sakes that do not include additives, preservatives and sulfites, which are available by glass, carafe, and bottle. Sake cocktails can also be found on the menu, such as Living Coral, consisting of a choice of base spirit – including sake or shochu – with lemon, red shiso, lemongrass and bubbles.

The playful yet sophisticated dining ambiance at Present Tense is derived from the restaurant’s focal point – a central bar outfitted in modular design with sleek lines and lush greenery. Above the bar lives a live music platform, where DJs will pump fresh beats in tune with the chef’s personal tastes on nights when hand-selected vinyls aren’t spinning. Sliding glass doors open to an outdoor patio outfitted in palms and other foliage. Tucked in the back of the restaurant is the exclusive sake bar, with reserved seating for immersive omakase.

Present Tense will offer dinner service Tuesday through Saturday starting at 4 p.m., with happy hour 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, in addition to Saturday brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Adjacent to Present Tense lives Hippo, a bodega concept created by the Present Tense team. Open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, Hippo is an upscale convenience store, third-wave coffee shop and wine boutique, offering a curated selection of local, sustainable, and high-quality products at an affordable price point. Hippo will also feature a coffee bar with a selection of drinks using Sightglass Coffee, including an on-tap espresso martini. Other offerings include chef-curated grab-and-go meals, soft serve ice cream and meats from local butchers.

Learn more here.

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