Growing gains: Scottsville's new eastern accent
When I first phoned the new Asian eatery in Scottsville, China Moon, I somehow wasn't expecting to hear a deep voice with a very Virginia accent on the other end. White guys can't jump, right? But restaurant owner-chef Robert Oliphant isn't letting his lack of Asian heritage stop him from branching out gastronomically.
"I've always loved dabbling in Asian and Pacific Rim flavors,' says this chef of 25 years from North Garden, "and I felt that an Oriental restaurant would go over very well in Scottsville."
Oliphant, who lives only 10 minutes from Valley Street, took over the fortune cookie-sized space formerly occupied by Memory Lane Diner, attracted by its location and low-overhead. Since the space only fits a few stools and a single six-top table (often reserved ahead of time!), China Moon is primarily a take-out lunch and dinner place serving a selection of classic and more experimental Asian dishes egg rolls, General Tao's chicken, Thai sticks, teriyaki steaks, and vegetarian offerings.
Oliphant says he makes everything fresh daily, but he's learning that he can't be too health-conscious in Scottsville. "I tried to avoid breading and frying the chicken, but that's just too healthy for people here," he says.
A step or two behind Crozet, Scottsville nevertheless finds itself in a transitional phase, and its growing pains and gains are perhaps most evident at the dining table. The town is only a few miles south of new ventures like the very upscale Kluge Farm Shop and the blossoming organic Maple Hill Farm.
Downtown Valley Street is home (among many others) to both Lumpkins– a traditional Southern family restaurant still run by 80-year-old Mrs. Virginia Lumpkin herself– and Magnolia, the innovative southern-inspired restaurant created by Northern transplant Howie Velie.
For chefs like Velie, who find the town laid-back and entrepreneur-friendly, Scottsville is quite the culinary conundrum.
"My problem has been that my higher-end clientele think I'm too low-brow, sometimes, and my lower-end clientele think I'm too high-classed and that they have to dress nicely to come in," Velie explains to Dish.
His tactic? He does what he loves and welcomes customers, whether they're wearing a tie or shorts and flip-flops.
One thing I both love and hate about Italy is that many shops, restaurants and museums are closed on Monday. While a majority of Charlottesville restaurants are open seven days, slow-paced Scottsville is still clinging to this Monday – and in many cases, also a Tuesday– siesta. From what I could gather from a random survey, this tradition stems from busier weekend traffic, making a Monday "rest" more sensible than a Sunday one.
But many locals are puzzled– and perhaps a bit peeved– at lunchtime. "I'm not sure why this tradition exists," one hungry Scottsville lawyer says. "I don't think everyone is fasting on Mondays."
Both Magnolia and China Moon are closed on Monday and Tuesday. Velie, who's busy opening a new inn in the countryside (more on this later), is considering offering cooking classes with his partner Chang on sleepy days, but for now he dedicates Mondays to mycology– yes, to hunting for mushrooms.
Curious? Try Magnolia's "sweet and sour mushrooms": bright orange "chicken-of-the-woods" mushrooms served either with black-eyed peas and spicy vinaigrette slaw or deep fried and tossed in hot sauce for a "boneless wing." I'd call these growing gains!
Service at Station, the West Main Street eatery owned by Barbara Shifflett, stopped on September 12 for what is being called a "brief reorganization period."
Things look quiet around there, and I've heard talk about the restaurant being for sale. But according to a somewhat cryptic statement issued by the management company, The Restaurant Group, plans are to re-open Station in October, with a "re-fitted menu" and an "affordable price-point."
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ROSS BARBOUR