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2018-01-17 / Featured / Taste

Carolina cooking: Soulveur Bistro highlights low country

BY RICH GRISET STAFF WRITER

Owner Curtiss Stancil and executive chef Kim Garrett in Soulveur's dining room. JENNY McQUEEN Owner Curtiss Stancil and executive chef Kim Garrett in Soulveur's dining room. JENNY McQUEEN Sitting on a flight bound for Ghana, cognac in hand, Curtiss Stancil experienced a moment of inspiration.

R&B musician D’Angelo’s song “Brown Sugar” was playing through his headphones, and Stancil began constructing a dish in his mind: take one hand-cut steak, marinate it in a rub, cognac and brown sugar, then cook to perfection. And so, Stancil’s Steak D’Angelo was born.

“I don’t think the city and the area have given [D’Angelo] enough credit for his place in R&B music,” says Stancil of the Richmond native singer. “It’s been one of our best sellers.”

The entree is now one of many featured at Soulveur Bistro, Stancil’s new low country restaurant in the Village of Amberleigh in North Chesterfield. Opened in early December, Soulveur is intended to capture the flavors Stancil grew up eating. Well, some of them, anyway. The son of a gourmet chef and a dietician, Stancil was exposed to a wide variety of foods in his youth, often acting as a guinea pig for his father’s creations. But for his first restaurant in Chesterfield, Stancil decided to take things back to the low country cuisine of his father’s side of the family.

Soulveur's Fried Cheese Grits appetizer, smothered in redeye Virginia ham gravy. JENNY McQUEENSoulveur's Fried Cheese Grits appetizer, smothered in redeye Virginia ham gravy. JENNY McQUEENOriginating from the Georgia coast and the coastal region of South Carolina known as “low country” – an area that boasts an abundance of seafood and plant life – low country cuisine is known for seafood-heavy dishes that blend African, Cajun, French and New Orleans cooking influences.

“My family is from the Carolinas,” says Stancil, sitting in Soulveur’s exposed-brick and cream-walled dining room on a recent Tuesday afternoon. “Really looking at that cuisine and Charleston and Gullah culture” – a reference to a group of descendants of enslaved Africans who live in the low country region of Georgia and South Carolina – “I thought that we can offer something different that really did not exist [in] this scene. Our menu is a lot of sauteing, a lot of homegrown ingredients.”

Soulveur's Charleston Shrimp and Grits entree, featuring sauteed shrimp, Virginia ham and vegetables over creamy cheese grits. JENNY McQUEENSoulveur's Charleston Shrimp and Grits entree, featuring sauteed shrimp, Virginia ham and vegetables over creamy cheese grits. JENNY McQUEENKnown for flavorful combinations like shrimp and grits, the peas-and-rice dish Hoppin’ John, seafood boils and the boiled rice dish Shrimp Kedgeree, low country cuisine comprises many one-pot comfort meals.

Stancil’s restaurant reflects this cuisine through dishes like its Carolina Gullah Gumbo, its Charleston Shrimp and Grits, Chesapeake Crab Cakes and its Southern Fried Chicken and Johnnycakes. The latter is a cornmeal flatbread commonly found today in the Caribbean.

Other dishes are riffs on this rich culinary heritage, such as its Gee Chee Paella – a mixture of shrimp, ham, chicken and vegetables served over curry rice, or its Low Country Chicken and Shrimp Alfredo – which crosses Cajun-seasoned shrimp and chicken with a creamy alfredo sauce.

Stancil touts his New Orleans Shrimp Stuffed Chicken – featuring a chicken breast seasoned and stuffed with cornbread shrimp dressing – as one of his favorites. The dish is inspired by one Stancil encountered at the legendary eatery Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans. That dish featured a baked chicken stuffed with oyster dressing.

“That thing has been on my mind for 20 years,” says Stancil, who lives in Hampton Park.

While Stancil has worked in the food business all his adult life, Soulveur is something of a departure for him. After serving as the executive vice president for Sodexo USA, a large contract food service company, Stancil struck out on his own, forming Curtmont Global Services in 2014.

Headquartered a stone’s throw from Soulveur, Stancil’s 130-employee company handles food services for colleges and universities in Georgia, Texas and Ghana, as well as municipal golf courses in Petersburg, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton and Gloucester. The golf course locations feature Stancil’s Anniebell’s Restaurant concept, offering southern soul food standards like chicken and waffles, collard greens and blackened catfish.

Curtmont recently took over food services at River City Sportsplex’s Field Cafe, serving nontraditional concession items like turkey burgers, green beans and macaroni and cheese. The company also recently received a contract for food services at the Virginia Department of Taxation’s headquarters in Richmond.

In creating Soulveur, Stancil says he wanted to share a type of cuisine underrepresented in Chesterfield. To help capture the flavor of the south, Stancil brought in executive chef Kim Garrett. The duo collaborated on the menu.

“I was born and raised in Virginia. This is home for me,” says Garrett, who has spent three decades in multiple kitchens mastering southern cooking. “All of the southern food that we do here, I picked it up.”

Garrett says Soulveur’s desserts shouldn’t be skipped, especially with items like Peach Cobbler a la Mode and Bourbon Bread Pudding.

“We have people that come in just for the bread pudding,” she says.

The restaurant features live jazz on Friday nights, and Stancil says when the weather warms up they’ll host jazz outside in the courtyard on Friday and Saturday nights. Just make sure to get there early during the week; reflective of the nearby 55-plus community of Amberleigh, the restaurant closes at 8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 7 p.m. Sunday (it’s closed Mondays). Stancil says he plans to expand his hours during warmer seasons, and that his location close to Amberleigh has been a boon for business.

“They have really gravitated,” he says of Amberleigh’s residents. “They’ve been wanting this.” ¦

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