I Scuba For Scallops Taste Off: The Results

Richard Chamberlain and chef Lan Nickens start the competition.
Richard Chamberlain and chef Lan Nickens start the competition.

I’ve just returned from Chamberlain’s Fish Market Grill in Addison where Richard Chamberlain and I hosted the “I Scuba for Scallops Taste Off.” There were 12 tasters and all 12 picked the hand-harvested diver sea scallops over dry-packaged U-10 sea scallops. As we’ve noted, many restaurants offer “diver scallops” on their menus but very few actually serve real diver (hand-harvested) scallops. I’ve only located two places in Dallas—The French Room and Aurora—that serve them occasionally on tasting menus.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned—a lot of chefs in Dallas don’t know the difference. Richard Chamberlain admitted that he had “diver” printed on his menu and he was serving dry-packaged U-10s. Today Chamberlain not only educated our little group, he also educated his staff.  Chamberlain has a batch of hand-harvested diver scallops. If you want to do a tasting, he and his chef Lan Nickens will be happy to cook up a plate for you until they run out. If you’re a seafood fan, this is a big treat. Real diver scallops are not only rare they cost 40 percent more than the U-10s.

U-10s at top. Divers at bottom
U-10s (top). Diver scallops (bottom).

The first noticeable difference between the two was the color. The raw dry packaged U-10s were light, almost white while the divers had a grayish, tan tint. Once cooked, the diver scallops seared to a gorgeous caramel brown while the U-10s stopped at a light “biscuit” brown. I’m guessing water content played a roll in the caramelization—diver scallops aren’t packed in water or stored on ice for longer periods of time like U-10s. The diver scallops were “denser” with a “meatier” texture while the U-10s appeared “looser” with a “springy” texture. If either one of these cooked scallops appeared alone on a plate you would consider each a thing of beauty. However, when we put the two side-by-side, our eyes and taste buds gravitated to the diver.

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Diver scallops first hit the pan.
Divers hit the pan.
12 U-10s (left) 12 divers (right)
12 U-10s (left) 12 divers (right)

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