Clams with Linguine at PFW in Ottawa’s Byward Market
I have previously mentioned that Play, Food & Wine down in Ottawa’s Byward Market is one of my favorite restaurants, and I almost always stop by I am visiting the capital. They have a frequently changing menu that features appetizer sized dishes rather than main course sized plates, and each offering is accompanied by pairing suggestion from their comprehensive selection of wines. The Clams with Linguine you see pictured above could have used some tweaking, in my opinion, but was still an excellent dish.
This particular item was described on the menu as ‘Little Neck Clams with Linguine, Mushrooms, Miso, Garlic and Soffrito’. The restaurant suggested a Casale Marchese Frascati as an accompaniment and, though I don’t always follow their suggestion, I did so in this case and was very pleased. The wine turned out to be sharply crisp, with lovely fennel notes that really worked well with the clams.
The clams used in this dish were Little Neck Clams, which are, I believe, the smallest of the clam varieties typically eaten. They are a bit like the Cherrystone type in that they have thick, hard shells and very tender, flesh. Indeed, these ones were so sweet and delicate in taste that the other ingredients in the preparation came quite close to overwhelming them.
The Soffrito here was the standard ‘Battuto’ of chopped Onion, Celery and Carrot which had been sauteed in oil. Garlic was added during this process and it was cut in pretty thick slices (one of which can be seen in the very first picture). Much more than was included would have dominated the dish unpleasantly, but here the amount was just right.
The broth in which the clams and Linguine were served was a light seafood stock made with white wine and a little butter for roundness. Miso was added for extra depth and umami strength and I thought this a very clever idea that worked really well. My only real criticism here was that the broth was sufficiently thick enough to be a sauce capable of clinging to Linguine. Absent thickening the broth somehow, the dish may have improved with a different starch, such as Polenta, perhaps, that could sop up the liquid a little better. Aside from that, though, this was an extremely tasty and well-conceived dish.