Happy As a Clambake! Rush Street's Summer Clambake. Friday & Saturday Evenings From Now 'Til Labor Day Weekend! Culver City, CA.
Taking a little dip.
My first clambake was technically a clam boil since we didn't cook it on the beach with hot stones radiating heat so intense they glowed. Instead, the clams, corn and potatoes were boiled on a stove top in a house with freshly scavenged seaweed from the shores of Westport Harbor in Massachusetts.
It was shortly after 9/11, early October of 2001, and I felt an irrepressible need to be on the East Coast though not necessarily in New York. So I decided to visit a good friend in Westport, Massachusetts and stay at her summer house. When the plane started its descent over Newark, where I would transfer flights, I could still see smoke streaming from the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center. Sadly, this is the vivid image I have locked in my mind when I think of clambakes.
The second clambake I've ever experienced was at, of all places, Rush Street in Culver City, CA. Rush Street, of course, is the Culver City hot spot that pays homage to the Rush Street in Chicago.
Whenever the subject of clambakes come up, there are typically two reactions. The first: What's a clambake? The second is invariably a wistful retelling of bygone days of a carefree childhood romping along the beaches of the Eastern Seaboard collecting seaweed and stones for a clambake, which traditionally include a gang of ingredients like steamers (aka soft-shell clams), quahogs (aka hard-shell clams), mussels, lobsters and crabs. Throw in a few vegetables, typically potatoes, carrots, corn, onion. Sausage can be added for some depth.
Pear flower power!
Another important ingredient involved with a clambake is beautiful summer weather, balmy, with a breeze that caresses and a sun that doesn't quite know when to set. This coupled with the perfect outdoor deck upstairs and to the rear at Rush Street's cavernous eatery.
The table was cheekily set with blue gingham table cloth accessorized by a blue plastic sand bucket and seashells plus a fish net running across the center. My Pear Flower Martini with Vodka, Grapefruit Juice and Elderflower Liqueur was just the right pairing for this scene. Refreshing and bright like a sun forgetting to set.
Chowder to chew on.
Having lived in San Francisco for several years and near the Wharf, I get a flashback whenever I spy a sourdough bread bowl. The one served to me at Rush Street's Clambake brimmed with a rich, deep hued chowder concentrated with Dungeness crab, corn and carrots, dressed with cilantro. The Dungeness Crab Chowder was thick with seafood flavor and satisfied wholeheartedly.
A New England lobster egg-roll?
Then came the Lobster & Shrimp Eggrolls. Perhaps a mischievous West Coast play on the other New England seafood tradition, the lobster roll. These monster rolls were served severed, revealing the hefty shreds of seafood succulence combined with crunchy cabbage and carrots with a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds. Delicious even without dipping into the spicy or sweet sauces.
Calamari? I don't even know Amari! (Badum!!)
Fried pieces of squid. What's not to love? Rush Street's Fried Calamari is nicely done. Nothing to complain about. Plus, you get a great pile of them. Something to cheer about. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Done with a Cajun flair, it's a bit spicy, served with hot and cool sauces.
Fat shrimp, so much better than croutons!
The seafood theme of this clambake was worked into the healthful items as well.
My favorite seafood salad of the night was the Marinated Jumbo Shrimp Salad heaped with fresh baby greens, crunchy candied pecans, white cheddar, sun dried cranberries, shaved Asian pear and celery. I loved this wonderfully wild pile of good stuff. The grilled shrimp were not only big in size but bold in flavor. This is a meal in and of itself, which is why it's found in the entrée section.
The Maine event! Get it? Maine. East Coast. No?
Waiting for a clambake on the perfect summer evening is kinda like waiting for the Thanksgiving turkey to be paraded out — so much time, anticipation and expectation. However, since my connection to clambakes is limited to that one meal in Westport, MA, I was open to interpretation.
Rush Street's clambake was presented plainly in a large, deep white bowl. Peering from the pumpkin-colored broth, were black mussels, Manila clams, shrimp, chunks of Andouille sausage, corn on the cob and new potatoes. Most of the individual items absorbed the flavor of the heady broth and influences from the other ingredients. Unfortunately the normally piquant Andouille sausage got literally watered down in the cooking and lost its heat. As usual, the best part of this type of seafood is using the available crusty carb and sponging up the deep oceanic broth and wringing it all out down your gullet. That's what it's all about.
Tickle & tweak your ribs.
The Sweet & Spicy Baby Back Ribs. Yeah, they were pretty damn good. Pull the meat off bone with no effort. Lick goopy, Thai-inspired sauce off fingers. Chew bone, siphon out marrow. What? You don't suck out the marrow? Oh, right, like I'm the only one!
A carnivore's dessert!
Sort of a non sequitur dish but doesn't every big meal have one? For some random reason I was really craving red meat, like bloody red meat. And when I saw the prime rib on the menu, I ordered it for dessert. Yes, dessert. Rush Street's Prime Rib was prime alright, and what truly made it that way was the perfect cooking, which is to say barely cooked and almost butter tender. A small pool of blood collected at the lowest level of its flesh topography. The horseradish sauce barely had bite but, because the meat was so good, it didn't need any sauce. This prime rub isn't as thickly cut as some others I've had but it was the most flavorful one I've enjoyed in a long time.
So my second ever clambake was decidedly less bittersweet and much more fun. Maybe it wasn't the most traditional of New England clambakes, but the perfect Southern California summer night and a back deck that knows how to party made this Rush Street clambake equally delicious and unforgettable.
The summer season is quickly setting on us as will Rush Street's Summer Clambake. From now until the end of Labor Day Weekend, EVERY Friday and Saturday evening, Rush Street will be offering this summer treat. Get yours! Oh, those summer nights!
9546 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232-2631