Dozen Best Scallops
Scallops are unarguably not a part of the Louisiana seafood pantheon. The best of them come from the cold waters off the Atlantic coast in the Northeast and the Canadian Maritime provinces. Despite that, sea scallops of the highest quality have become a major specialty in the top rank of our restaurants.
With good reason. These adductor muscles (analogous to the “eye” of an oyster) are the filets mignon of the seafood world. We’re talking here about the big ones, which will always be much better than the little ones in this part of the world. Something else in common with steak: there are good and not-so-good grades of scallops. The good ones are known as “dry-pack” scallops, meaning that they haven’t been marinated in a chemical for long shelf life. These include “day-boat” and “diver” scallops.
The best scallops don’t need much gilding from the chef. The standard preparation is to sear them in a hot pan with clarified butter, then send them out. In recent times, scallops have been abetted by being wrapped with bacon, prosciutto, or pork belly. Serving a slab of foie gras across two scallops has been catching on lately. To me, that’s like two separate dishes. As for sauces, anything more assertive than a beurre blanc may be too much. Scallops are a delicacy.
1. Gautreau’s. Uptown: 1728 Soniat St. 504-899-7397. One of the first local restaurant to make scallops a specialty, Gautreau’s has always turned them out simply, to perfect results.
2. Root. Warehouse District: 200 Julia. 504-252-9480. Like most dishes at this adventuresome bistro, their scallop masterpiece sounds crazy. They’re very lightly smoked with Cohiba cigar fumes! Wait, there’s more. Chorizo dust, caramelized cauliflower, and fennel choucroute. And yet. . . it’s great.
3. Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078. Enormous, pan-seared jumbos, crunch top and bottom.
4. GW Fins. French Quarter: 808 Bienville. 504-581-3467. Sea scallops crispy on the top and bottom and swollen with moistness, with mushroom risotto on the side.
5. Dakota. Covington: 629 N US 190. 985-892-3712. The scallop dish at Dakota is always changing, but it remains a reliable specialty for a lighter supper.
6. Pelican Club. French Quarter: 615 Bienville. 504-523-1504. One of Chef Richard Hughes’s signatures. Diver scallops seared, placed around a splayed-out artichoke heart, and polished with garlic beurre blanc.
7. Cafe Minh. Mid-City: 4139 Canal. 504-482-6266. The scallops start off seared American style, then goes off in an Asian direction with Japanese eggplant, sweet chili-soy sauce.
8. Atchafalaya. Uptown: 901 Louisiana Ave. 504-891-9626. Seared diver scallops come out hot, but with a cool aioli made with chipotle pepper and green onions. It works.
9. Pardo’s. Covington: 69305 Hwy 21. 985-893-3603. The house specialty at this new bistro on the North Shore. Seared diver scallops and foie gras, both excellent, with a little gastrique.
10. 5Fifty5. CBD: Marriott Hotel, 555 Canal. 504-553-5638. Big seared scallops with a unique Herbsaint butter sauce.
11. Mikimoto. Carrollton: 3301 S Carrollton Ave. 504-488-1881. Hotate is the Japanese word for fresh sea scallops. Have them once, and you’ll seek them out on every new sushi diner. And discover how few restaurants serve them fresh.
12. Rue 127. Mid-City: 127 N Carrollton Ave. 504-483-1571. Highly original and good, with roasted fennel and an orange-butter emulsion.