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Feb 29, 2012 10:14 PM

Old Clam House cioppino?

East Coast friends will be here for one day next week and have requested a place for cioppino. What about the Old Clam House? What places are better?

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  1. we just had cioppino at Sotto Mare (Green St. just off Columbus) and it was excellent as usual. no skimping on the seafood, all of it delicate and sweet (dungeness, clam, mussel, shrimp, calamari, scallop. (last year it also had some very good fish and the shrimp were a different size, so there seems to be a little variation according to what's freshest and available). started with a shared bowl of New England style clam chowder, which is also one of the best versions in the area.

    1. The Old Clam House is now part of the same semi-chain that owns the Franciscan, Stinking Rose, the Crab House at Pier 39, and Bobo's.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        The Old Clam House is much, much better than any of those other places.

        1. re: sugartoof

          Seems like it would have to be given the location. You've been there since the sale and makeover?

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I believe so, unless it turned over a 2nd time this year. How recently did it sell? They did ask us if we had been back since the place was redone, which worried us, and in all honesty we wouldn't have stepped foot in there had I known that's who owned it,.

            The chowder was excellent, and tasted of fresh cream (wasn't canned). They still bring a shot of clam juice to start the meal. The burger, and Crab Louie were decent enough. My expectations were low and the style of meal fit my ideal for an old San Francisco experience. but it was better than say, Alioto's or the Cliff House.

            1. re: sugartoof

              Sold over a year ago. Same chef and largely similar menu to their other places.

      2. The cioppino at the Tadich Grill is well regarded by many, including yours truly.

        5 Replies
        1. re: DavidT

          Tadich uses frozen shrimp in their cioppino and overcooks the seafood.

          1. re: DavidT

            I agree with DavidT, the cioppino at Tadich is a favorite of ours and many friends and family as well. Unclear on the response regarding frozen shrimp, they use huge jumbo prawns, scallops (not bay scallops) dungeness crab, and fish.

              1. re: roxaneA

                "Unclear on the response regarding frozen shrimp."

                Likewise. Shrimp flash-frozen immediately after harvest are better than "fresh" shrimp that have been sitting around for awhile. Chances are, the unfrozen shrimp you see displayed on ice were previously frozen anyway. And after putting them in cioppino, there's not a difference anyone would notice, anyway.

                If you are getting fresh shrimp right off a boat catching them locally, and using them right away in something delicate like a Spanish shrimp in garlic sauce (my favorite), there may be some point to it, but not in most cases.

                If Tadich weren't using frozen shrimp, I'd think they were being foolish. How much shrimp is harvested commercially off the California coast, anyway? Unless you live on the Gulf Coast, your shrimp probably come from a farm.

              2. re: DavidT

                Second the cioppino at Tadich Grill. I also had it at John's Grill and was suprised how unexpectedly tasty it was.

              3. The best cioppino is made with only fresh seafood, ideally local (since the dish was based on bycatch), which means a first-rate place has to change up the ingredients daily or not serve it every day.

                By my standards, places that have cioppino on the menu every day with pretty much the same ingredients are second-rate at best, third-rate if they use frozen so they can have exactly the same ingredients regardless of availability.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  That's fine, but who meets that standard? Who has the best cioppino?

                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                    I've had cioppino at both Sotto Mare and Old Clam House in the last 3 months.

                    This was the first time I'd been to Old Clam House since their reboot. It's a different, and much better, place than before. Prices are reasonable. Cioppino (technically "Seafood in Cioppino Sauce") was @ $20. But their is a whiff of portion control to everything from the bar drinks to the high mark-ups on the ok wine list. The cioppino itself was fine, but I felt the portion was just exactly enough that I didn't feel I was getting ripped off. So all in all, it's good, I wouldn't mind going back (it's close by for me), but I won't rush. I'd rather go to the Gold Mirror on Taraval if I want that old-style SF feeling, although it is more Italian than fish place.

                    The Sotto Mare cioppino, OTOH, has a higher sticker price (@ $33 or so). But it is more than enough for 2, especially if you get a side salad or some oysters to start. It feels generous and everything is cooked just right (no over cooked crab or shrimp). It has some kind of small pasta in it, but not so much that it feels like they are padding out the dish with a lot of extra carbs.

                    So I think Sotto Mare is by far the better cioppino. Old Clam House is good, but really is not in the same league.

                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      I expect you'll get the best cioppino at the first-rate seafood places that occasionally have it as a special, e.g. Bar Crudo, Anchor Oyster Bar, Hayes Street Grill, but I haven't lucked in to one of those places on the right day.

                      Best I've had in recent years was at Rose Pistola, but they just got a makeover, new chef, and new menu, so I'm not sure they do it any more.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      "The best cioppino is made with only fresh seafood, ideally local ..."

                      No doubt. And it turns out North Pacific prawns are available live from California or nearby waters, in a short season:


                      They are $38 per pound, plus shipping. At that rate, if your cioppino for two had four prawns in it, the cost of that ingredient would be $20, before considering markup for processing in the restaurant. So a restaurant could serve it at times, but it would be expensive.

                      I don't expect there is very much of this available, and it would more likely be bought for sashimi rather than cioppino. I used to be a frequent sushi/sashimi eater, and ate my share of ama ebi, but in many years of eating at sushi bars, I only found odori ebi on the menu once.

                      I appreciate fresh seafood as much as anyone, coming from a coastal town myself, but I think it's elitest to look down one's nose at the masses of people who choose to have frozen seafood rather than to eat many types, such as prawns, rarely or never.

                      1. re: GH1618

                        even fifty years ago the coastal catch of fresh shrimp was in decline, though still available in many markets. we're lucky to still be able to get tasty wild shrimp, frozen at or near the source ; recently had some from (Pacific)Mexican waters that were quite good. the live spot prawns that qualify as our local catch are one of the treasures of our coast, but using them for cioppino would be extravagance for no purpose -- the less prep the better.

                        1. re: GH1618

                          There's no need to pay for shipping, local restaurant suppliers such as Monterey Fish and Port Seafood have fresh shrimp. They've been on the former's Twitter feed lately.


                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Monterey Fish also carries flash frozen shrimp from Georgia, today about $17/pound.

                      2. Wow, thanks for all the discussion on cioppino in San Francisco. It turns out that my friends' night here will be this coming Monday, and Sotto Mare is closed on Mondays. Any consensus on second best?

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                          Tadich's ... and you get the best sourdough in SF along with the old SF ambiance.

                          1. re: rworange


                            I've found Tadich's food to be wildly inconsistent, from amazingly good to less than mediocre. Does that inconsistency include cioppino?

                            1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                              Nope. I felt the same way you did, but you have to know what to order at Tadich. Then this old post by Melanie Wong opened my eyes to the greatness of Tadich

                              Consistant ... yep ... that post is just as relevant today as it has been to almost as long as Tadich has been at that location. The prices are higher, not as many blue collar workers and maybe no more bar dice ... but the food ... yep.

                              i do like Scoma's fish better, but i don't like the saucy soup or their god awful sourdough. Scoma's fish in Tadich's broth would be perfect.

                              1. re: rworange

                                I agree with Melanie's write-up except that in my limited recent experience, even the simple-prep things can sometimes be way off. So I'm asking again if cioppino, probably by its nature, is consistently good there.

                              2. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                                Is there a range of times for dinner at Tadich's where the wait would be minimal (Monday night)?

                                1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                                  Probably early is better -- but it depends and visitor and convention activity.