Notable Nosh: The Surf Clam

Surf Clam 1

I have come across ‘Surf Clam’ on many Japanese restaurant menus but, on the few times I have tried to order it in the past, it always seemed to be out of season, or otherwise unavailable. In any event, back this past December, I tried it, not once but twice, in two different restaurants in Ottawa. All I could think was that it was a shame I had not managed to try them before as they were probably the nicest clam type I have ever had…

I really cannot tell you exactly what species constitutes ‘surf clam’ for culinary purposes as the information I was able to find was quite confusing. It may well be that there are more than one species, including one that is fished offshore from Bedford, Nova Scotia.    The inset in the above picture shows one such species (Spisula sachalinensis) and I have included it to give you an idea of the part of the clam that is used.

The sashimi and sushi you see pictured above was served to me at Wasabi, where they identified on the menu as ‘Orange Clam’ and ‘Hokegai’, the latter apparently and in-house spelling of the more common ‘Hokkigai’. Surf Clam seems to be the most common English name, but one also encounters ‘Red Clam’, and ‘Sea Clam’.

What I like about the Wasabi version, was the presentation. As you can see, the edible portion of the clam (apparently called either the ‘foot’ or the ‘tongue’) is ‘butterflied’. It is simple pressed almost flat on the plate for the sashimi version, but is made into a pretty little conical ‘hat’ for the sushi. His is quite unique and different from the way it was cut at my next port-of-call…

Surf Clam 2

Here is the Surf Clam Sashimi and Sushi I had at Sushi Village (about 10 minutes from Wasabi on foot). As you can see, the ‘foot’ (or whatever you wish to call it) has been completely bisected rather than just butterflied, and each half is used separately. This is, I would say, the more common way of cutting the flesh for service. I think the sashimi cut at Wasabi looked far better than here, but I have to say that it is a toss-up as to which is prettier at the two restaurants as far as the sushi presentation goes…

Anyway, in both restaurants, I enjoyed both the sushi and sashimi with more relish than is the case with most clams I have tried. The flesh was quite dense with a chewy, slightly fibrous character not unlike octopus, and the taste featured the same delicate sweetness that makes octopus one of my favorite foods. Many clams lack sweetness in my experience, but these shone and I can safely say that they will be a regular order whenever I go for sashimi in the future…

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