I have a hard time at restaurants.
It’s not that I’m picky. In fact, quite the opposite. The whole other end of the spectrum, actually. I want it all. I’m greedy for everything that establishment has to offer. What might seem like indecisiveness due to specific taste, is really just me feeling exasperated knowing I’m only allowed (financially, anyways) to order one of many options.
When I learned a few years back that my favourite (yes, favourite!) Ottawa restaurant, Allium, was starting to do a tapas and wine night on Mondays, I was convinced someone finally heard my indecisive sighs and saw my heavily furrowed menu-scanning brows. At long last! A chance to eat a few small plates from the menu I most pined after.
A girlfriend of mine, also conveniently one of the chef’s wives, and I decided to head over there last night to close out a Monday with a cold glass of wine, some gossip, catching up, and a few plates of the most delicious dishes in Ottawa. As usual, the plates did not disappoint. We each chose two of our favourite dishes and finished the meal off with a cheese plate. My girlfriend first chose some creamy Mushroom Toasts, which reminded me a lot of a broken down cream of mushroom soup. Rich, buttery, and comforting. Second, a Tuna Tadaki, perfectly seared, pink in the middle, seasoned to perfection and served with pickled ramps (!), orange, almonds and sour cream.
My first pick was Duck Chili Cheese Fries. Can you blame me? I’d love to see you pass that up on a menu. The chili was lovely. Rich and bursting with flavour. Made only better by melted cheese and hand cut fries. Secondly, and most importantly, I chose a Scallop Crudo. It was something I would have passed up any other day, but it being particularly hot yesterday, I didn’t think I could do anything heavy after the fries. They say everything happens for a reason and I am now a believer. The crudo was… unbelievable. If summer had a flavour, that would have been it. Giant thin sliced scallops, marinated for a short period in citrus, and served with edamame, cucumber, tomato and spiced honey. If I could find a way to express just how much I enjoyed this dish, I would. But words escape me (shockingly). It was perfect.
Our Allium plates. Mind the photo quality. Because I am not a food critic, or anything close to the likes, I don’t like to be ‘that guy’ and whip out my camera to take shots. A quick cell phone photo was all I could muster without turning red.
I couldn’t imagine not being able to have it again, this simple plate of ingredients so perfectly balanced and bright. And thus, came home in search of a way to recreate it. Immediately. Before I forgot the way it tasted. While some changes were made based on ingredient availability and how I was feeling today, I think I came pretty darn close. Though it will never taste as good as when someone else makes it for you, I’m glad I can get my fill of summer flavour whenever I want it.
Scallop Crudo with Grapefruit, Edamame, Zucchini and Mint Oil
Dish based on Allium Ottawa Scallop Crudo
serves 2 as a main, 4 as an appetizer.
If you live in Ottawa, I highly suggest making a trip to The Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster and Fish Supply for your scallops. Not only are they the size of your head (a very slight exaggeration), but they sell all sustainable species and while you’re buying you can pick up their awesome brown bag lunch. If that’s not enough to send you in their direction, I don’t know what is.
Vegetarian Note: While the scallops were delicious, they are certainly not vital to this dish. The citrus marinated zucchini slices with the rest of the ingredients would have made a wonderfully acceptable dish as well.
4 scallops (3 if very large), sliced into 1/4” rounds
half a large zucchini, sliced as thin as you can, preferably with a mandoline
1 tsp zest from lime
Juice from 1 lime
1 tsp zest from grapefruit
Juice from half a grapefruit
1/3 cup mint leaves, plus extra for garnish
2-4 tbsp canola oil
1 cup edamame (soy beans), shelled
Large flake salt, to finish
Best olive oil you can afford, to finish
1-2 red Thai hot peppers, sliced thin to garnish (optional)
Add the sliced scallops and zucchini to a shallow bowl.
Add the lime and grapefruit zest and juice. Cover and let rest in the fridge until you’re ready to plate.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the mint leaves, reserving extra leaves for garnish, and blanch for about 1 minute until bright green. Add to a bowl of ice water to stop the coking process. Reserve the ice bath. Add the leaves to the bowl of a food processor with 2 tbsp canola oil. Pulse until well blended. If the mixture is still a little dry, add more oil until it’s smooth. Set aside.
Fill the same pot up with water and a few pinches of salt. Bring to a boil. Add the edamame and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the the ice bath.
Take scallops and zucchini out of the fridge. On each plate, place a few zucchinis down, overlapping slightly. Place a row of scallops atop the zucchinis. Sprinkle some edamame, mint leaves, and hot pepper around the plate. Finish with a drizzle of the mint oil, olive oil, a sprinkle of flaky salt and reserved mint leaves.
I paired this with a glass of Muscadet, which was perfect. Though I certainly don’t fancy myself a sommelier.