The chef Ross Dobson was reared on potato scallops. “We used to get fish and chips every Friday night because we grew up in a Catholic house. I always used to get the scallops and they were so good. I ate them for the first 15 years of my life.”
According to Dobson, who is also a cookery writer and restauranteur, a good scallop is made of a large potato cut around 1/4 inch thick, which is then briefly cooked in oil, and then cooled down. It is then battered and fried again. “The potato inside should be firm to the bite — it should be al dente.” He also says there also should also be a bit of space between the potato and the batter.
Dobson laments, however, how hard it is to find a good one. “My sister and I got a couple of scallops in the car the other day and we both felt really sick. We wondered if they were always that greasy and if that is what you just ate as a kid or were they just bad scallops?”
He now thinks peak scallop happened when he was younger — in the 70s and the 80s, when they were made on site and cooked on the spot. “They can’t sit around, they can’t be soggy. They have to be cooked fresh,” he says. “These days they are pre-made and frozen.”
While take-away shops at train stations have long been a reliable spot for good scallops, recent samplings by this writer at North Sydney, Central and Town Hall found some ok ones but they were all too greasy. Nonetheless, a small straw poll on social media had the following recommendations:
Bondi Road Seafoods – described as “real potato, double fried. Fucking amazing!!!!”
The fish and chip shop in Summer Hill – “So fried. So smooth. So perfect.”
Bodega 1904 – with their mini lobster burger with friend potato scallop.
Despite these positive reports and even their appearance at an award-winning restaurant, Dobson believes scallops have basically become unfashionable. “It’s sad,” he says. “I think crab sticks have taken over.”