22 Main St., Hamburg
Seared scallops show up on many restaurant menus, but few non-sushi venues present raw scallops. Prepared crudo style, or raw with a citrus marinade, scallops are both delicate and strong. This small plate is an undeniably addictive contrast of textures and flavors.
Chef Brad Rowell says this dish was initially inspired by Mexican tostados. "We decided to take it in more of an Italian direction by using the carte di musica cracker and the Calabrian chili aioli," he says. If you aren’t familiar with the carte di musica, it’s like a flatbread meets a cracker with an impressive amount of crisp for such a thin vehicle. The tender texture of the scallop is perfectly balanced by the crunch of the charred cracker with a border of dark, burnt edges.
The scallop is the star of this dish. Rowell uses wild-caught scallops from the gulf of Maine and marinates them in grapefruit and lemon. "We think the citrus, chilis, and mint really complement the scallops’ subtle sweetness," he says. The acid from the citrus, the heat of the chilis, and the earthiness from the mint make the scallop shine. The aioli—comprising chilis, lemon, and garlic—has its own depth of flavor, which will stay with you after your first bite. Calabrian chilis are without a doubt spicy, but also slightly fruity and smoky, which adds another layer of complexity.
"This dish is very popular, and we often see people ordering second rounds of it for a first course," says Rowell. "We would never consider removing it from the menu." For a few dollars per piece, it’s one of the most worthwhile small plates around.