This Scallop Dish at Reverie Will Make You Dream of Copenhagen

Johnny Spero's scallop crudo with buttermilk and dill puts a deliciously Danish spin on raw scallops.

When Johnny Spero—an alum of Minibar and Komi—opened a place of his own in Georgetown, he unveiled a menu that could only be described as eclectic. Ashes, emulsions, and “savory fudges” share space with a Midwestern-style smash burger and a fried-chicken sandwich. One thing the chef says he always has on the menu, no matter where he’s cooking: a raw-scallop dish. For good reason—the crudo, accented with buttermilk and dill, was the best thing we ate this month.

Spero loves the sweetness and texture of raw sea scallops. He cures them for a few hours between sheets of kombu (dried Japanese kelp), which amps up their salinity. “I’ve learned to be less heavy-handed with salt,” he says. “There are other ways you can add that flavor.”

Dill is divisive. (“Demon weed!” a friend exclaimed when I posted the scallops on Instagram.) But Spero has always thought of it as the perfect pairing for fish—his favorite childhood breakfast was a bagel with lox and dill. He makes the stuff more palatable by turning it into a verdant oil.

Buttermilk and dill are a classic Scandinavian combination. “We’ve had a lot of Danish guests,” Spero says. “This dish is very homey for them.” He creates a buttermilk emulsion with garlicky mayonnaise and tart house-made buttermilk. (The kitchen makes its own butter, too.)

The crudo is finished with finger limes, a caviar-like citrus, and shards of dried scallops. That last touch is an idea Spero got from his apprenticeship at Noma in Copenhagen. He purées cured scallops, spreads them into a sheet, then dehydrates them and breaks them into pieces. The chips have become one of his favorite snacks: “It’s best that they’re on the other side of the kitchen.”

This article appears in the January 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.