Though not quite as expensive as a tin of sapphires, Shark Bay's wild scampi caviar certainly has a jewel-like lustre. It shines a deep, bottom-of-the-ocean blue - when chef Josh Niland came across the product he was blown away by both its colour and its flavour. Tasting it is like "getting dumped by a wave," he says. At Niland's Sydney restaurant Saint Peter, he tops Clair de Lune oysters with a spoonful of the roe, adding "a really briny, heightened salinity to the oyster, with a much more definite taste of the ocean".
The season runs from November to March, with scampi hand-harvested from waters around 500 metres deep off Australia's west coast, mainly around Port Hedland. Their roe is then hand-sorted and tinned with no additives or colourings other than salt. The scampi keeps its egg sacs outside its body, so the flavour of the ocean permeates the naturally blue eggs. Once tinned, it has a shelf life of 10 weeks.Clair de Lune oyster with scampi roe at Saint Peter, Sydney.
It's also completely different in taste to other caviars. True caviar, the roe of the sturgeon, is known for its rich creaminess that melts on the tongue; the scampi roe, says Niland, has more of a fresh, salty flavour that pops in your mouth and then dissappears. "It's not lingering," he says, "it's a quick pop of juice and salt". It's also very photogenic, he adds and in a dining scene that often shoots first and tastes second, is also "kind of important".
Shark Bay's Wild Scampi Caviar is available at Nicholas Seafoods at the Sydney Fish Markets.