The Scallops Grilled at the Courtyard Restaurant in Ottawa came paired with Sous-Vide Pork Belly in what was a very nicely plated appetizer.
The Courtyard is a very nice, somewhat pricey restaurant in Ottawa’s Byward Market. It is in a lovely old stone building that faces, somewhat appropriately, a courtyard of cobblestones almost completely enclosed on all sides by shops and other restaurants. It is beautifully appointed inside and in the summertime, tables are available in the courtyard itself. I enjoyed the Grilled Scallop appetizer you see above while sated out there on a lovely warm evening.
There is actually quite a lot to unpack with this rather complex little dish, so I will do my best to describe it item by item, working around the plate…
There were only three Scallops included and these were placed atop a small bed of smoked cheddar grits. Two cubes of sous-vide pork belly flanked the scallops and, atop these, were a section of grilled scallion green and a roasted shallot. On the far side of the plate from the grits was a pool of shallot gastrique, and between the two, forming a line, were interspersed little mounds of caramelized onion puree and a thyme jelly.
The Scallops themselves were, I have to say, not quite as beautifully seared as those served to me at the Press Gang Restaurant in Halifax. Those were expertly finished with a lovely crust on the upper and lower surfaces. The Courtyard Scallops didn’t quite achieve that same nice caramelization but they were decently sized Sea-Scallops, and were nicely seasoned and with a delectable buttery texture.
The Pork Belly was also very tender. It was nicely unctuous, with a good ratio of fat to meat, and was. Like the scallops, only lightly seasoned. My only (mild) disappointment here was that the skin was not really crispy. The chef had seared it after the sous-vide cooking but this really didn’t achieve the same effect as roasting would have done. It probably would have been better just to serve it as is without the additional searing, in my mind.
I like the shallot gastrique very much, especially with the pork belly. I am not entirely sure how it was prepared, but the sweet, slightly tangy richness of the caramelized shallot worked very nicely. It didn’t strike me as a typical gastriqe, given the very mild acidity and sugar level, but it was still a very nice job
The line of onion puree and thyme jelly dividing the plate were certainly interesting, but I am not sure that they added much. Each had a pleasing taste by itself, and the visual appeal was certainly there, but, in all honesty, as far as taste or texture goes, I really wouldn’t have missed them at all.
Finally, the grits used to form a bed for the scallops and pork belly were of the large ‘hominy grit’ variety. Quite honestly, I really was sceptical about smoked cheddar working well here but it turned out to complement both the scallops and the pork belly very well. In all, the appetizer of Scallops Grilled at the Courtyard turned out to be a well-conceived and well-executed winner.