The Clam chef Mike Price loves Downtown NYC — he thinks the area has been good to him.
Mike Price opened The Clam at the beginning of the year on Hudson Street, and the place has already become quite popular. The namesake dish is perfect for spring, and the interior may give you the feeling you've been shipwrecked inside a beautiful clam. We spoke with Price about his venture.
Why did you choose to open your restaurant downtown?
We have two other restaurants in the neighborhood – Market Table on Carmine Street, and my partner has The Little Owl on Bedford Street – and this neighborhood has already been very, very good to us. The new restaurant is within five blocks of the other restaurants; it’s a corner spot just like the other two restaurants, and it’s a great space. We really, really love this neighborhood. We are kind of downtown guys to begin with. We didn’t have any doubt that it should be downtown. Above 23rd Street is for going to the dentist or the lawyer.
How did you decide on the name?
I wanted to put the name of the ingredient we’re celebrating in the name of the restaurant. I felt that was important. There are lobster restaurants, there’s oyster restaurants, but nobody has really been doing a well done clam restaurant. It’s very, very sustainable, and they are relatively inexpensive, so I can charge a reasonable rate for my dishes. I feel like it’s a fun ingredient.
If you can open a mussel restaurant, you can certainly open a clam restaurant, because I feel like from a chef perspective that they are a class above the mussels. You can fry it, you can steam it, you can put it in pasta or on a pizza. You can do a number of things with the clam.
Your restaurant is beautifully decorated, especially the ceiling.
We wanted to make this space look like a clam, in a very tasteful way. The ceiling is the top of the clamshell. That was kind of what we were thinking from a broad design aspect, without it looking weirdly like a clam. The ceiling is actually made of mother of pearl, which is made out of oysters and clam shells. That’s the one design aspect that really stands out.
What is your favorite thing on The Clam’s menu?
For me I feel like the standout is something that should have been done before, but has never really been done before: It’s the lobster and clam sandwich. It’s half lobster roll and half clam roll on top of each other on a brioche bun. ["New York Times" critic] Frank Bruni came in the other night and freaked out over it. I don’t feel like anybody is doing a lobster/clam roll right now, but it’s my favorite dish. That’s the one I will order.
What is your favorite ingredient for the spring?
I love rhubarb. I like using rhubarb in savory dishes. I’m also a big spring onion fan.
What places downtown do you go to yourself?
I love sitting in the bar at Annisa (13 Barrow St.). There’s also a place right down the street from me, and they’ve been doing a really good job. It’s called Piora (430 Hudson St.). They make really delicious pastas. Blue Hill (75 Washington Place) is also one of my favorites. And I really love Soto (357 Sixth Ave.) for sushi. It’s delicious!