Shrimp has long been the top crustacean, but the scallop is the mollusk of the moment.

Seared scallops are one of the fastest-growing seafood entrées on menus, according to Datassential MenuTrends, which tracks over one million different menu items at more than 7,000 chain and independent restaurants. As an entrée, seared scallops appear on 41 percent more menus than they did just two years ago.

Scallops appear on menus in all segments but are highly preferred by fine-dining restaurants, where nearly 70 percent of menus feature scallops as an appetizer or entrée. Though long a staple on fine-dining menus, seared scallops may be getting more attention because they are a luxury item that isn’t easily prepared at home and because many diners are looking more healthful, lighter dishes when eating out, according to some chefs.

Chef Tyson Wong Ophaso of Chi Lin in West Hollywood, Calif., offers Porcupine Black Pepper Scallops, wok-seared fresh-out-of-the-shell Maine scallops that are scored and then topped with a black pepper sauce, in large part to meet the demands of his hyper health-conscious diners.

“LA people like healthy and very lean cuisine,” said Wong Ophaso, a former Iron Chef America alum. “They are more demanding of freshness. It’s market-driven cuisine.”

The limited availability of scallops is also appealing to diners at the modern Chinese restaurant. On a typical night with about 120 reservations Ophaso has only a dozen orders of the labor-intensive dish available for service.



“It’s a luxury … a fresh nature of the ocean. Nobody really farm-raises scallop,” said Wong. “It’s so fresh, [and] takes a long time to prepare.”

Luxury is also the appeal at Max’s Wine Dive in Austin, Texas, where executive chef Erica Beneke has been serving seared scallops with various seasonal preparations for the last two years. Beneke’s current preparation is Seared Scallops with lardo, an homage of sorts to the classic bacon-wrapped scallop, served with golden raisin puree, fresh grapes and rainbow chard.

“It’s definitely something the customers want to see,” said Beneke. “It’s really intimidating to cook at home. It feels really indulgent.”

Diners enjoy the scallops so much that Beneke says she sells more of them than any other fish dish on the menu.