Due to the convergence of a couple of out-of-town friends visiting in the past couple of weeks, both of whom were interested in seafood, I had the pleasure/chore of eating seafood twice within the span of 3 days. I'd been a little light on the "brain food" recently, so I didn't mind.
First destination was Scoma's for lunch, after a morning of sightseeing at Coit Tower and Fisherman's Wharf. As usual, there was a wait for a table (for two), but we hadn't even had a chance to take more than a couple sips of our beers before we heard our name called by the hostess. We were seated, and presented menus by our efficient server. I was immediately surprised to see, besides the regular menu, a smaller menu outlining the prix-fixe lunch that Scoma's offers. Not having been to Scoma's for a couple of years, this was an unexpected, positive twist.
Our server returned to explain some of the favorite choices on the regular menu. After conferring with my friend, we went with the server's recommendation of the seafood saute sec from the regular menu, along with the clam chowder/broiled wild king salmon on lobster ravioli/dessert from the prix-fixe menu.
Shortly after, a cup of clam chowder was presented to us. I'd forgotten how lipsmacking good Scoma's clam chowder is. The clams were abundant and tender, with just the right proportion of potatoes (i.e. way more clams than potatoes), in a creamy chowder that seemed to just explode (in a good way) on your taste buds. My companion and I both agreed this was the best clam chowder we'd ever had, using the basket of french bread on the table to finish every drop.
A few minutes later, we were presented with the seafood saute sec and the wild salmon on lobster ravioli. Both dishes were tremendous. The saute sec was an enormous portion of fresh, large, high-quality shellfish (scallops, prawns, shrimp, mussels, rockfish, dungeness crab legs and petite lobster tails). Everything was cooked to the proper amount of doneness (i.e. nothing was overcooked/rubbery). The seafood was served on a bed of rice (nothing memorable), along with a side of steamed veggies (eh) and of pasta (double eh). The star was by far the seafood, which was stellar. Scoma's proclaims this is their most popular dish, and I can understand why. I'd be happy to order this dish when I return.
The wild salmon on lobster ravioli was no slouch, either. The portion of wild salmon was generous enough to be akin to a dinner portion, and the 3 lobster ravioli were also large. The dish was served with a lemony creme sauce that highlighted the fresh salmon and the ravioli nicely.
Amazingly, my companion and I were able to finish both our entrees. Even more surprisingly, we were also able to finish the chocolate torte that represented the 3rd course of the prix-fixe lunch. The torte was very good, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes chocolate. It was accented by some fresh whipped creme and swirls of raspberry sauce.
The seafood saute sec was $34.95, while the prix-fixe was a real bargain at $21.95. Scoma's website states the prix-fixe is available daily until 3:30, and other entree choices are crab or shrimp louis, seafood risotto, New York steak or wild salmon on mixed greens. I'm definitely planning to take clients to Scoma's for lunch in the near future.
A few days later, I met up with another out-of-town friend, but this time in the South Bay. After some shopping at Santana Row, we decided to dine at Yankee Pier, as I'd been wanting to try the lobster roll that had been mentioned here on Chowhound. Unfortunately, I was informed when I tried to order it that they had sold out for the night. After a few moments of disappointment, we proceeded to start with a bowl of clam chowder and the heirloom tomato appetizer, to be followed with the shrimp roll (which our server suggested as a replacement for the lobster roll) and the fried Ipswich clam platter.
After having had such an exquisite cup of chowder at Scoma's, Yankee Pier's version sadly paled by comparison. Though the bowl offered an enormous portion of chowder, the ratio of potatoes to clams was way off. There likely were more potatoes in the chowder than clams. Worse, the meager amount of clams that were in the chowder were too tough and chewy. The small, dill-drop biscuits were an interesting touch, but they did nothing to rescue the chowder. My advice would be to stay away from the chowder entirely.
The heirloom tomato salad was tastier, but not amazing. A large tower of red, yellow and green heirloom tomato slices was presented, covered with a balsamic vinegar/olive oil concoction. It was pleasant enough, but the tomatoes seemed to be a notch below the top-quality ones that the better restaurants serve in their heirloom tomato dishes.
I was hoping our entrees would improve upon the mediocre showing of the starters, but alas, that was not to be. The shrimp roll was pleasant enough, but the shrimps themselves should have been larger IMO (yes, I realize that's an oxymoron to some degree). For $12.95, I think something larger than bay shrimp size is warranted, esp. after they had run out of the acclaimed lobster roll. The kettle chips were pretty tasteless filler, too.
Worse, the Ipswich clam platter suffered from heavy breading of the clams, and fries that had stayed in the fryer too long. The clams themselves were decently tender and tasty, once you debreaded them. The coleslaw was the only thing that was good.
The only highlight of the meal was the bottle of 2003 Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc that we shared. For $28, it represented barely a 100% markup from retail (K&L has it for $12.99). Nice balance of fruit and tartness, I'd recommend it with most any seafood dish beyond cioppino.
The overall verdict - - - Scoma's by a landslide. I doubt I will ever darken the door of Yankee Pier again, unless I'm forced to go there b/c a vendor is picking up the tab and has their heart set on it.