No trip to the west coast would be complete without sampling some of its oysters. Unlike in rap music, I don’t get into a west coast vs. east coast debate about which is better. I like them all, briny, sweet, large, small, etc. I’m sort of the Kobayashi of bi-valves. I’ll eat as many as you’re willing to shuck. Maybe not as quickly, but slow and steady wins the race.
In San Francisco, the Swan Oyster Depot is the kind of unpretentious, family run place you wish you had in your neighborhood. All white tile and a veritable fisherman’s aroma, with the menus on the wall and family paraphernalia collected from over the years. I made the mistake of walking in there at 5:30 on a Thursday. There were two diners finishing up their meal, and I strutted in expecting to chow down. “Everybody knows we close at 5:30.” I was devastated. The wind got knocked out of me, and I mumbled something as I tumbled backwards out of the restaurant. I stood outside lingering, when one of the burly employees came out to dump some trash. “Don’t fret. We’ll be here tomorrow. We open at eight. Come down for some chowder.” An invitation if I ever heard one.
As it turned out, I strolled in at eleven with my companion and we nudged into two seats near the end of the bar. There is only a bar, of course, as it should be, and the writing is all over the wall. This is the real Mcdeal. I nice older fella took my order, which was everything I could get, and then he proceeded to prepare it himself. He did all the shucking and plating. There were no stations to speak of. Every man or woman was responsible for his/her own customers. A plate of pristine Miyagis came forthwith, and I knew I was in trouble. If not for a lunch appointment, they would have had to ask me to leave, which of course they wouldn’t. They’re so polite. Shrimp cocktail was spot on and the clam chowder warmed my cockles from the San Fran breeze. There was a Stony Hill chardonnay and a $90. Pahlymeyer, but I was happy with my Anchor Steam.
Soft shell crabs are in season, but I couldn’t get my fill of clams and oysters. Everyone had the same smile on their faces, like they’d rather be nowhere else. I agree. I didn’t try the lobster, but I had to leave something for next time. I left, feeling pumped up and ready to go, kissed my swan goodbye, until again.