Fried Clam Tasting
during my just completed visit to boston, i wanted to try to find fried ipswich clam heaven. ended up going to seafood sam’s in sandwich, land ‘n sea in peabody, the clam box in ipswich, and essex seafood in essex.
seafood sam’s – we went here because one of my family lives 10 minutes from here, we know they get ipswich clams from a shucker/processor in rowley, and we had some time before a red sox game. the clams on the dinner plate had excellent clam flavor with good sweetness in the bellies and a pleasant nuttiness and chewiness in the foot. the coating was light and not greasy, but it was smooth, indicating a batter rather the 3 step process of white flour, evaporated milk, and corn flour. it did stick to the clam, though, indicating that they didn’t use water in the batter. the coating had a light, clean taste. the size was somewhere around a small box, and at 16.95 it an okay deal.
land ‘n sea – this was the first stop on our north shore run, and they get their clams from the same rowley processor as seafood sam’s. The small box was 8.50, but the clams themselves didn’t have much taste, and they were pretty greasy. The coating was smooth here, too, so we got the double whammy of batter and too low a frying temperature. The coating did have a clean taste, though.
clam box – we got a small order of regular clams and a small order of big belly clams. the price seemed high at 13.75 per order but we saw that the order comes in a boat instead of a box, so you get more clams than in a box. the coating was perfect, light golden, no grease, and with the crumbliness and nooks and crannies of the white flour, evaporated milk, and corn flour dipping process. it had just the right crunch. the regular clams had a beautiful sweetness and nuttiness which gradually filled our mouths, and just the right chewiness. the big bellies absolutely exploded in our mouths with perfect sweet clam flavor and perfect texture. the big bellies were as close to a perfect clam as we’ve ever tried. we liked that clam box posted on the wall that they change the oil every afternoon, which can delay orders.
essex seafood – we split a seafood platter here, which was definitely the deal of the day at 20.95. it contains clams, scallops, shrimp, and haddock sitting on top of a good size portion of fries and onion rings. there’s enough clams for a small box, so with a small box at 13.75, you’re basically getting everything else for 7 bucks. the coating was perfect, had just the right crunch, nothing was greasy, and the clams tasted just as good as the regular ones at clam box. the scallops and haddock had the sweet taste and texture of absolutely fresh seafood. the shrimp, onion rings, and fries were also fantastic. but…….and a big but, here…. the frying oil was old. We could smell it on our platter, taste it in our food, and smell it coming out of the kitchen as the cook was doing more orders. that was the only blemish, but it really took the experience down a notch.
rating on a scale of 100, i give seafood sam’s an 85, land ‘n sea a 75, clam box regular clams 96, clam box big bellies 99, and essex 90. i’d give the clam box big bellies 100, but i haven’t sampled enough other clams yet. if essex used cleaner oil, i’d give ‘em a 95 or 96, too. we didn’t have time for farnham’s, woodman’s or moulton’s in medford. next time.
Awesome report! I'm really surprised to hear about Essex dirty oil. They are my pick for North Shore clams (well, maybe tied with the Clam Box, with tartar from Farnhams!) and I've never had less than fresh oil there. I hope that is merely a blip.
I wish Kelly's was in your mix. I was so pleasantly surprised at xmas how great the clams were and it was way out of season. Revere Beach location.
What a good analysis. My husband and I are big fans of Clam Box. I had been to Essex Seafood and it was a total disappointment to me. I tasted old oil and the clams were not crispy. I was so regret that I bought my friend who came from thousands of miles to visit me but had not so good food.
I want to try Farnham. Wonder is it any good.
If you come into town, try Yankee Lobster by the Bank of America Pavillion (Northern Ave. I believe). To me, they're the best in Boston. A lot of people like Neptune Oyster's clams in the North End, but I found them to be too salty.