By Nancy Miller • Photos By Danny Alexander
For Paul Skulas, it made sense to work where he likes to play. So he closed Portage, across the river, and opened Couvillion here-- in Germantown. “I spend most of my free time in this area. Most of my friends live within walking distance. There’s so much going on here,” says Skulas.
Couvillion is French for a rich fish stew. “It goes back to the backbone of Cajun and Creole food that has French, southern and seafood influences,” he adds. His Couvillion is made with catfish, a fish closely associated with southern cuisine.
Skulas took his management team to New Orleans in February to sample couvillion at several restaurants. Catfish was the fish of choice for many of the chefs. “My wife and I go to New Orleans every year for a quick getaway. I wanted the people who were going to be the face of my restaurant to have a reference point, to know what they were talking about, to have personal experiences in flavors, and to have memories they could draw on. We hope to do that once a year,” he says.
Couvillon’s motto is “So good it’d make a rabbit smack a bear.” Say what? The phrase comes from one of the owner’s grandfather who often bandied it about. Skulas thought its unique quirkiness fits the character of the restaurant.
Creating the menu involved a bit of trial and error. “I tell everybody, if you want to judge the restaurant, order the gumbo (and the duck Creole.) The Gumbo Z’Herbes is a completely vegetarian gumbo that has seven to nine types of greens and a basic dark roux. I have had a lot of gumbos. I did chicken and andouille gumbo the first week. It was alright but the meat was kind of a second note, just there. But in the new version, the greens are so robust and have a hearty, intense flavor,” he says.
Sharing the menu with the gumbo and duck are fried boudin (pork and rice sausage), white bean soup, trout and grits, braised brisket and smothered pork chops.
Dave Tuney was the mastermind behind most of the cocktails although Skulas came up with his own, the Young Buck, made with bourbon, citrus, bitters and Ale-8-One. “We got over the first few weeks hump of drop dead exhaustion and worked everyone into the ground,” says Skulas. “Now we’re getting into a normal lifestyle and I’m having fun.”
1318 McHenry Street