At Seafood By Crushed Velvet, the Under the Sea platter is quite the catch. The sizable sampler comes with snow-crab legs, jumbo shrimp, a lobster tail, corn on the cob, a boiled potato, sausage and a hard-boiled egg – all swimming in generous drizzles of housemade garlic-butter sauce. The overflowing entree exhibits nearly everything there is to offer at the new Belleville restaurant, which opened in mid-May.
Chef-owner Jasmine Brooks whips up these seafood specialties herself in a cozy workspace reminiscent of a home kitchen. In the petite prep area, she creates her favorite crab cakes, gumbo and more from scratch to serve up to Midwestern guests.
“It’s something completely different for Belleville,” Brooks says. “Seafood is my favorite thing to eat ever. It was always a treat, so I wanted to treat other people by making it easily accessible in this area.”
The Belleville resident originally hails from East St. Louis and was introduced to cooking at a young age, picking up a Southern-influenced cooking style from her mother and grandmother. Following a stint in restaurant consulting and a career working in management for AT&T, she decided to pursue a lifelong dream of opening her own restaurant.
Initially, the plan was to start up a New-Orleans style snowball trailer to raise the capital for a larger concept – thus the moniker, “Crushed Velvet” – but an opportunity presented itself for a more immediate solution.
“I signed up to be a vendor for Art On the Square in Belleville to set up and sell my food, but there weren’t any spots available on the street. I saw a for-rent sign in a building and talked to the owner about renting it for the weekend,” Brooks says. “The response ended up being so great there that I just kept coming back.”
Now, Brooks takes up residence in the 1,400-square-foot storefront on a regular basis, cooking up plates of crab legs and more for the neighborhood every weekend. The dining room largely still features flair from its former life as a French bistro, including ornate ceilings and a faux-stone facade that separates the kitchen from the seating area.
Vibrant local paintings and fresh sunflowers supplement the eclectic, funky feel of the interior. Brooks hopes to customize the decor more in the future, but for now, she’s focused on putting out the best platters possible.
From the menu, choose from full and half-size snow crab or jumbo shrimp platters as well as a lobster-tail platter. Each plate comes with Brooks’ requisite corn on the cob, potatoes, sausage and a boiled egg. Add-ons and sides are also available including the aforementioned crab cakes and gumbo.
“We’re a little bit of New Orleans and Florida-style seafood all mixed together. It’s fresh and pure deliciousness – messy but fun,” Brooks says. “And then, of course, there’s my famous sauce that goes on everything. That’s what keeps ‘em coming back.”
Seafood by Crushed Velvet is currently open Friday through Saturday from 11am to 9:30pm as well as Sunday from 11am to 6pm.
Seafood by Crushed Velvet, 121 E. Main St., Belleville, Illinois, 314.737.0707, facebook.com/seafoodbycrushedvelvet