Last week, my Eat of the Week was a hot dog. [ LINK ] People like hot dogs. Hot dogs are super popular. Shellfish? Sure, plenty of people like shellfish too, but I’ll just put it like this: Hot dogs get a whoooole buncha more “likes” on social media than shellfish ever have or ever will. No contest.
Yes, you will meet people who insist on telling you, “I don’t eat hot dogs.” They are liars. When someone says, “I don’t at shellfish,” however, they are generally not lying to you, but instead they are expressing the true fact that either they simply do not enjoy the flavors of the sea (losers), or shellfish is a deadly poison to them, that will make their throats seize-up, their faces turn purple, and the all life functions cease (losers). Just kidding, people with shellfish allergy! You are not losers. Going from the shrimp boat to a dirt nap in 60 seconds or less is a horrible dinner plan, so… maybe don’t even read this review if you have shellfish allergies, because, yikes.
Anyhoooooo, while seafood and shellfish might be less popular or… live-through-able… than other food groups, I do hope that the true seafood fans among us will take the time to consider this week’s Eat of the Week, because, holy fuck: This bowl of shellfish is the best bowl of shellfish I’ve ever eaten in my fucking life, bar none, top o’ the heap, #notkidding #truestories I shit you not, if I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’, etc etc, hyperbole after hyperbole, infinity, forever. And yes…
Sometimes, my Eat of the Week is just the best thing I ate that week. This amazing serving of shellfish and broth, created by Chef David Van Tassel of The Junction in Asheville’s River Arts District might be the best thing I’ve eaten so far this year. I’m giving it an early nomination for a 2017 Stoobie Award, probably in more than one category, but for now I’ll just say that to me — and keep in mind that I do truly enjoy the flavors of the sea, and I’m not deathly allergic to shellfish — it might be the tastiest thing in Western North Carolina right now. I know that sounds like crazy-talk, but please go try it, and tell me if you disagree. Here’s a picture…
Again, I am appealing directly to the shellfish and seafood fans out there, so if you don’t truly love seafood, don’t go eating this bowl of shellfish, and then be all like, “Stu, I wasn’t that impressed.” Because then I would have to be all like, “Well, how do you feel about sea food in general?” and if your answer is just like, “Eh, I can take it or leave it,” then I’d have no choice other than to be, all, totally, like, “Well, you’re a fucking idiot.” And that wouldn’t be pleasant for either of us.
BAHHHHT, if you are a seafood fan like me, please treat yourself to Chef Van Tassel’s shellfish bowl, and I think you will also find it to be nothing short of fan-fucking-tastic. Here’s another picture…
The description on the menu includes smoked shrimp, NC clams, PEI mussels, charred carrot & lemongrass miso, and Thai basil oil, as well as grilled bread. There were also chunks of celery and other vegetable matter in the mix. This is definitely a very savory take on a good ol’ shellfish bowl, and I would not say that the flavors are subtle in any way, but rather they are very up-front and daring, yet deep, complex, layered, as always with Chef Van Tassel’s recipes, very intelligent and thoughtful. The broth is at the same time bright and light, yet comforting, thick, rich, and satisfying as fuck. My taste buds sprang into action the moment a drop of it hit my tongue, and my eyes rolled back involuntarily with each spoonful and bite of perfectly cooked seafood and veg. I asked for more bread, of course, and ate every available molecule in the bowl. One last picture…
So, yeah, I know that I give out a lot of superlatives, but that’s not because I love everything, it’s because there’s a shit-ton of really great food in this town right now. When I say something is good, it’s probably pretty good. If I say it’s the best fucking thing I’ve put in my face so far in 2017, that’s something I hope that you guys would really pay attention to.
The Junction has been one of my favorites for years, it’s a true “hidden gem,” on the lonely side of the RAD. It is both a neighborhood favorite and a food-tourist destination, and the winner of more than one Stoobie award already. Chef Van Tassel and crew are making some of the most creative, most whimsical, and delicious food in WNC in my opinion, all sourced impeccably and prepared with careful craft, and confident expertise. Please take my word for it, the Shellfish Bowl that is currently on their menu is, at the very least, worthy of being my the hands down winner of my…
The Junction, Asheville
“Farm-fresh Southern cooking served in an artsy indoor/outdoor space separated by a garage door.”
Address: 348 Depot St, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 225-3497
Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.
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