Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chowder versus Bisque at Scoma's

Scoma's on Urbanspoon
During my 2015-April trip to San Francisco, Scoma's had been recommended to me twice: Once by a lady who worked at Swiss Louis on Pier 39, and a second time by the guide from Dylan's Tours. Surely it had to be good.
It even has it's own road in Fisherman's Wharf, for chrissakes (Al Scoma Way). Surely it's a San Francisco fixture, a piece of its history.
All this puts Scoma's in that dangerous territory of setting high expectations all to easy to disappoint.

I got there when their doors were open but before their official start of business. The maître d' was a younger fellow, friendly, personable and professional. He even remembered my name on my way out, and little details such as my leaving for the airport that same night.
Sadly I ended up with a pushy waiter who seemed insistent on upselling me their Shellfish Sauté Sec even though I told him I was just here for a light meal as I had elsewhere to eat on my very last day in San Francisco. I am going to assume that not all the waiters at Scoma's are similarly pushy, and that when it's not so busy that every seat is precious, they will respect a diner's wishes about just how much they want to eat.

The procedure at Scoma's is apparently to first take down your name and seat you at the bar until you are called, one party at a time, into the dining room where you are seated. Since I went during lunch and pretty much right when they opened, this seemed a strange practice as seating was obviously already available.
Something similar had happened at Crustacean, and I wonder if this were a way to sell drinks at the bar first. After all, if you are sitting at the bar, you might be more likely to order a drink while waiting (?).

I asked (as I invariably do with foolish hope) if they had fresh-squeezed juice. Nope, but "fresh squeezed" in a bottle was available. I asked if the lemonade might be made from real lemons. Nope, from concentrate. Even though afterwards the bartender stood there squeezing the life out of maybe a dozen lemons. Oh, the irony of how bars work.

Grapefruit Juice ($4)
  • Tall glass not filled to the brim. Somewhat chilled but no ice.
  • When I asked for ice he said he forgot to ask if I wanted ice. Hmm.
  • Anyway, strong and not too much ice.
Scoma's Famous Clam Chowder ($9 cup, $11 bowl)
  • Soupy like Boudin's and about the same in tastiness, except maybe with a light hint of butter (?) and costing about $3 more if you get the bowl -- on top of not having any sourdough to go with it, although dining at Scoma's sees complimentary bread sent to your table once you have ordered.
Lobster Bisque ($10 cup, $12 bowl) gluten-free
  • Rich and salty-sweet, on the too-salty side.
  • Lightly hot-spicy.
  • Not very lobster-y, but also without too much of the possibly off-putting lobster-guts flavour.
While you are in line waiting for the maître d', look to your right for souvenirs such as books of Scoma's matchsticks (you hardly see these things anymore) and a square info card that, among other things, talks about the Vegimobile.

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