Seasons in the Park chef makes a romantic prawn and scallop dish for Valentine's Day
For more than 30 years, Peter Isacu has been helping people celebrate special occasions. The executive chef at Seasons in the Park has worked at some of Vancouver’s most romantic restaurants, including the Teahouse in Stanley Park and Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge. He spent 25 of those years working at restaurants owned by Umberto Menghi, most recently Il Giardino before it closed last year.
“I am usually working when everybody else is celebrating, but I get my enjoyment from being part of the show that goes on,” Isacu tells the Georgia Straight during an interview at Seasons.
Perched near the top of Queen Elizabeth Park, the restaurant offers panoramic views of Vancouver’s downtown skyline and is considered by many to be one of the most romantic spots in the city to enjoy a meal. According to Isacu, the winding, tree-lined drive up to the restaurant, its accessible West Coast menu, and the elegant service all add up to a dreamy experience.
“Like every other place, it’s not just one thing,” he says. “It has to be the whole package that works together.”
This year, Isacu will be cooking at the restaurant on February 14, when Seasons is offering a special three-course menu ($55 per person, plus tax and tip) in addition to its regular dinner menu. He plans to celebrate Valentine’s Day with his wife a few days after the holiday.
For couples planning a special meal at home, Isacu suggests choosing a dish that’s easy to prepare.
“Don’t do anything that’s too complicated or takes too long. Have a nice bottle of wine to go along with it. It always helps with cooking,” he says.
With that in mind, Isacu’s recipe for pan-seared prawns and scallops is a good option. “It doesn’t take a long time to cook, and it doesn’t take a lot of preparation, so it can be done in a very short period of time,” he explains. However, he cautions, “It has to be cooked just right. You cannot overcook the prawns and scallops, and because you cook it so fast, you have to use ingredients that give you a lot of flavour right away.” Fresh basil, garlic, and shallots add a depth of flavour to the dish.
Isacu advises buying fresh or frozen seafood the morning of the day you’re preparing it or the day before, at the earliest. To round out the meal, he recommends a side of vegetables and a bottle of Pinot Gris or Chardonnay.
Peter Isacu's pan-seared prawns and scallops in white wine sauce
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
6 fresh or defrosted tiger prawns, shells on (about 180 g [6 oz])
6 fresh or defrosted sea scallops (about 180 g [6 oz])
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 Roma tomato, diced
2 cups (500 mL) white wine
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped
2 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
¼ cup (60 mL) butter, cubed
- Season the prawns and scallops with salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Place the prawns and scallops in the hot pan and carefully sear both sides for about 45 seconds each, or until prawns begin to turn pink and scallops begin to brown.
- Add shallot and garlic to the pan and sauté about 1 minute, or until aroma is released, stirring frequently.
- Add diced tomato and sauté about 30 seconds.
- Add white wine to deglaze pan, stirring occasionally before adding herbs. Lower heat to medium and cook about 2 minutes, until liquid has reduced by half.
- Remove pan from heat and stir in butter.
- To serve, divide prawns and scallops between two plates and top with sauce.
Yield: 2 main-course servings.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.