Clam shacks are one of my favorite eating destinations of all time, but sometimes I think that serious chefs think that all it takes to open a good one is to shuck some clams and make some chowder. Ever since Rebecca Charles opened Pearl, a bushel full of chowder and fried clam pretenders have come on the scene in New York. First Laurent Tourondel opened a less than mediocre clam shack on the ground floor of BLT Fish, and now Marc Murphy of Landmarc fame has opened Ditch Plains.
Based on one meal I've had, and numerous reports from friends and colleagues, Ditch Plains is not worth a visit. They sell fried clam strips, and though they are marginally better than Howard Johnson's, they should be ashamed of themselves for selling bellyless clams. When we first asked our waiter about the clams he assured us they were bellies. When the clams arrived at the table, I tried one and sent them back. Then the manager came over and said they started with clam bellies iin the kitchen and then cut them into strips. Huh?
The clam chowder had no discernible clam flavor and couldn't even be redeemed by the chunks of bacon swimming in it The roast oysters were pretty good, mostly for the oil-soaked bread beneath the oyter shells. A shrimp and bacon salad tasted like perfectly acceptable shrimp and and pieces of nothing special bacon on a plate. Not bad, but not great either. Plus, they use instant iced tea. Guess I really didn't like the place.
I think making this kind of food really good is a lot harder than chefs think.
So for now go to Pearl for your lobster roll, chowder and fried seafood fix. Maybe Ditch Plains will get better, but for now it's a skip.
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