Thursday, February 27, 2014


Choosing The Clam was the ultimate example of following the chef.  I was, as I always am,  bequeathed the single-handed responsibility of choosing the restaurant, as is too often the case. Day-of, at five pm on a Saturday night: less than ideal.  My to-be dining companion was of absolutely no help whatsoever (his only contribution was suggesting a no-name Taiwanese-Mexican fusion conveniently located in Greenpoint??...) , so I finally remembered to follow my own advice, recalling chef Mikey Price of Market Table had recently opened a new joint down in the nether West Village.  And not only that, chef Joey Campanaro of The Little Owl has his hand in it as well... so technically I followed TWO chefs there, chefs I love.  Located close to both,  The Clam opened up about a month ago.  Like its siblings, its a sweet, cozy neighborhood kind of place, featuring not just  the freshest seasonal and market-driven resources of the Atlantic seaboard, but  focusing specifically on clams- one of Price's favorite ingredients.   But not to worry: the menu isn't exclusively clam-centric.  There is quite enough diversity in the menu to please the masses, and everything is masterfully executed.

The pearlescent ceiling.
Pearls come from oysters, I know, not clams- but the slightly convex ceilings tiled in luminous mother-of-pearl perpetuate the nautical theme, and give the room a soft glow reflecting the brightness of the open kitchen and the abundant candles flickering from
Fancy Clam Chowder
 tabletops.  There's a lot of light exuding from the kitchen as well, in addition to finery which it is concocting within.  There is, predictably, an impressive raw bar which offers up seasonal delicacies like whichever oysters are at their peak, or, befittingly, littleneck clams "on the halfie."  Clams are a component of a third of the menu entries, from a rich, snacky little dip to an entree-worthy spaghetti & clams topped with spicy gravy and sided with salad.  There's a luxurious clam chowder, served in a
wide, shallow bowl featuring two humongous in-shell clams in a silky-rich broth, plus more clams and tender chunked potatoes floating within.

 Not to constrain ourselves strictly to seafood, I chose a dish of roasted carrots from the seasonal vegetables menu, which made for a brilliant starter salad .  A butter lettuce salad with cheddar, apples and pumpernickel is listed on the appetizers menu, but these seemed more up my alley.  And they were- a rainbow of roots roasted tender and wallowing in a thick, spiced labne sprinkled with toasty pumpkin seeds.  I thought Daniel Humm had the Midas touch with carrots, but Chef Price is giving him a run for his money.

Aside from roasted Bell & Evans half chicken, whose accompanying hot lettuce with hen of the woods and radishes almost made me order it, the entrees are purely ocean-derived.  My Block Island swordfish retained it signature meatiness which is normally achieved on the grill, but the heavy golden crust belied its treatment from a searingly hot flattop- that, and a generous dose of fat.  Oh, but it came to a marvelous end, the bronzed exterior

 yielding to its flavorfully firm flesh, a bed of anchovy-tinged lacinato kale enriched with daubs of smooth Meyer lemon aioli.  Not to be outdone, a whole winter flounder boasted its own crisped skin, a pretty substantially sized fish, stretching the length of the plate atop a slurry of beluga lentils and roasted butternut squash anointed with a nutty, herbal pistachio pesto.    Speaking of nuts, there were an absolute blizzard of them in the roasted brussels sprouts with chunky bacon, so much so that the uneaten remainder would've amounted to a legitimate bar snack.  I'm not sure, either, what they were doing in there to begin

with, but they neither detracted substantially nor enhanced the sprouts, easily extricable as they were.  Eaten with a fork, they were sort of hard to impale, anyways, so the amount that made it into alternating bites was enough.  The dish would probably be better off without them, for a worthy, bacony roast of sprouts they were.

Capping things off, I wish I would've gone for our charming and attentive bartender's (who doubled as our waiter, eating at the bar as we were) recommendation of the chocolate and banana cream pie, but not being so much of a chocolate person, I went for the the apple & cranberry crisp.  It was good, without too much cranberry, and the perfect proportion of nutty almond crumble atop, but it wouldn't win many awards.  Maybe the island coconut lime bread pudding, with minted pineapple and rum creme anglaise to shake off the winter blues?   In all other respects, The Clam certainly makes strides to do just that.  The amicable service, the cozy environs, and the substantially nourishing fare all come together kind of like a big hug.  Which isn't something you'd necessarily expect from a Clam, but Price's food goes a good stride beyond expectations.

420 hudson street ny, ny 10014  212.242.7420 f. 212.242.8420

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