Soulfish Grill

The Seared Ahi Tuna Salad at Soulfish. (Photo by rich Vana)

The Seared Ahi Tuna Salad at Soulfish. (Photo by Rich Vana)

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The Pope may have retired, but there’s no quitting Lent. For those who have given up the flesh of warm-blooded animals for the sake of your soul, Soulfish Grill in Richardson has you covered. General Manager and Executive Chef Chris Duffy has integrated Gulf, Caribbean and Hawaiian flavors into a menu that meets heavenly criteria.

Duffy has helped open 72 restaurants and has been adding seafood recipes to his repertoire throughout the years. Soulfish’s shrimp cocktail, avocado shrimp salad and charbroiled oysters are tried and true favorites, but the fish tacos are a Lenten lunchtime favorite.

“When it comes to Lent, it’s fried fish. The American catfish has a tendency to have a muddy flavor to it. We don’t use the American catfish; we use a catfish from Thailand which is not a bottom feeder. It’s got a very clean, very clear flavor to it. It’s still going to have that flaky texture to it, but it’s going to be a lot more like a filet as compared to strips. For the most part, unless you’re a true Louisianan, you won’t mind.”

While Dallas may be miles away from any shoreline, many different types of people have washed up in this city. Sometimes this has resulted in Texas-style dishes such as Soulfish’s charbroiled (as opposed to baked in a Northern style) Oysters Rockefeller. Duffy claims that there is something at Soulfish for everybody.

“Everybody’s from somewhere here. We have so many corporations here that people have moved here for work. We also have such a wide variety of ethnic groups here that people will like almost anything on your menu as long as they know about it. So I’m not one to hold it to just Texas or Cajun or Creole; that’s why we go outside the regional boundaries.”

Whether seared, blackened in typical Texas style or charbroiled, the fish takes on the flavor of spices. The flavors Duffy uses run the gamut from India, Morocco, Hawaii, Louisiana and the Middle-East. Duffy draws from his international spice rack with the coolness of a culinary cosmopolitan.

“Way back when I was going to college, I was always able to take spices and blend them together to come up with great combinations. People would ask ‘how do you do it’ and to be honest, I don’t know. I can add spices to things and know exactly what’s going to taste good with something. So the company I was working for realized that and that’s why they sent me off to [culinary] school. I’ve always been good at putting things together to get the right flavor—what I call the ultimate flavor—out of a dish.”

“Sourcing” has become a buzzword in the food world, but when talking about seafood it is imperative to select fish that are caught in healthy waters. Despite having a model of a swordfish mounted on the wall, Duffy doesn’t cook swordfish because the species has been overfished to the point where the average weight of each fish is much lower than it used to be. Fish are fickle, or at least the weather is, but Duffy tries to source quality fish from as close as possible. Soulfish typically uses Atlantic salmon and pasteurized, gold-banded oysters from the Oregon coastline.

Soulfish's Key Lime Pie. (Photo by Rich Vana)

Soulfish’s Key Lime Pie. (Photo by Rich Vana)

For dessert Soulfish offers a variety of sweets including bread pudding with a whiskey butter sauce, gluten-free chocolate cake, strawberry cheesecake, tiramisu and of course, key lime pie. Eating dessert means living a little, and live music on Friday and Saturday nights means really living it up. Wash it all down with a dark and stormy at the “frost bar,” which helps keep drinks cool when they are placed onto its icy surface. The frost bar runs along the length of the bar, making a strip of powdered ice where patrons can park their drinks.

While fish may appeal to those with temporary dietary restrictions, there are no limits to the seafood at Soulfish. Spices and relishes blend in a variety of regional styles that must now be redefined in its own category.

About Finny Philip