Remember Halcyon? That restaurant attached to the Mint Museum made notable by a certain chef Marc Jacksina who brought Southern and seasonal together inside the elegant rustic space? Yeah, that one.
It’s been well over a year since Jacksina left the building to pursue other endeavors (he is now at Earl’s Grocery in Elizabeth) and executive chef James Stouffer took over. For some inexplicable reason, the foodie fangirls and boys abandoned ship here for no good reason. Since Jacksina’s departure, Stouffer has been quietly executing dishes centered around the seasons, employing classical technique and European-inspired touches for offerings that are as colorful as they are comforting. Farmers pay Stouffer a visit each week, delivering fresh produce to populate the ever-changing menu. On any given night, you can find him joyfully cooking in the tiny shoebox of a kitchen with his team. You won’t find the trendiest tricks or even a sous vide machine, for that matter. What you will find is a passionate chef cooking, truly cooking, honest food.
On a recent dinner outing, I had the privilege of eating several courses of the latest menu at Halcyon. The roasted scallop entrée ($28) was one of my highlights. The dish is a play on paella, though it is not that. Stouffer tells me that he began thinking about paella and its components. From there, he and his team began to compose the dish, beginning with onyx-colored veneer rice, slow-cooked like a risotto. The toothy texture mimics “socarrat,” the coveted crispy bits of rice stuck to the bottom of a paella pan. Scallops are seared golden and then roasted, all the while maintaining a sweet, tender center. Stouffer then combines roasted peppers, salty chorizo, roasted garlic and pine nuts together with sherry vinegar and olive oil, and spoons the sexy condiment atop the scallops. A saffron emulsion made with hardboiled eggs and egg yolks adds harmonious depth and the addition of crispy tempura broccoli is a welcome contrast in texture.
All that to say, Stouffer is bringing flavor and whimsy to each plate at Halcyon, collaborating with his team for imaginative concepts and his own brand of thoughtful cookery.
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