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Restaurants & Bars 4

the fried clam hunt - six degrees of desperation

gordon wing | May 20, 200304:46 AM

OK, I made my way down to SF Fisherman's Wharf today on the trail of whole belly fried clams from Sabella and LaTorre. I called to confirm that they indeed did exist and was told that yes they did have fried clams and they were shucked to order before being fried ( sounds promising ) ....when I got there I noticed there was a stand on the sidewalk out front with lots of fried seafood and what appeared to be clam strips so I asked the "barker" about ordering some fried clams - he directed me to the gentleman behind the bar (inside). The fried clam plate is $16.75 ( $18.17 w/tax ) - consisted of a dozen (?)fried clams (with lemon and tartar sauce ) a large portion of steak fries, some sauteed napa cabbage, a cup of clam chowder or salad, half a Parisian sourdough bagette and butter. The verdict? The fried clams were pretty good - maybe a 7 - 7.5? (on a 1-10 scale) crisp and greaseless - they looked the part but there was something missing - a good squeeze of lemon and a bit of tartar sauce helped. The clams were a mixed lot - several were pretty small without much of a belly and suffered for it but there were 4 or 5 with nice big bellies that almost did the trick ... the clams were just not as "sweet" as they could be in a perfect world - this could be a seasonal thing - maybe the clams will be "sweeter" in the summer? but to be fair, I've had fried clams in New England that were lacking in this manner also. My impression of my lunch would have been considerably better if I'd stopped with the fried clams. The
White Clam Chowder was of the wallpaper paste school - very thick and not a whole lot of clam flavor. The steak fries were pretty greasy and a mixed lot - some pretty crisp but most of them a bit pale and not crispy on the outside and creamy inside like I always hope for - asking for the fries "crispy" might remedy this. It's hard to believe that the clams and potatoes were fried by the same person. The army green ( and oily ) napa cabbage was somewhat misconceived - I missed the cool, vinegary counterpoint of a good cole slaw - to cut the oil a bit. The generous portion of Parisian sourdough was very fresh - a nice crust with a moist, soft insides - a nice surprise. Might be worth a visit if you've got a craving but I wouldn't cancel my East Coast plans. 3 hours of free parking can be validated across the street in the huge lot. Sabella & LaTorre is on Taylor St. near Jefferson (415) 673-2824 The search continues.....I have an image of my lunch plate but I can't figure out how to post it - email me and I'll send you the evidence.

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