Sure, it can provide a certain frisson to the dining experience, but I don't always enjoy complaining about my meal. A few nights ago at Porto Vivo in Huntington, all I wanted to do was enjoy what the menu called “linguine with Manila and razor clams.” Razor clams, I thought, that’s not something you generally see on Italian menus. Let’s give that a try.
While I waited for the main event, I made my way through a correct, if boring, Caesar salad, as well as a few sneaked tastes of my friend’s asparagus-mushroom risotto, delicious though it would have been better without an entirely superfluous red-pepper coulis. Her entree, veal Milanese, was also terrific.
When my pasta showed up, there were no razor clams in evidence. I asked the server, “where are the razor clams?” Blank stare, then he conferred with the server who took the order. She conferred with the kitchen, returned and told me that they could provide the razor clams on the side or, she added rather reluctantly, take back the dish and redo it. “I ordered this because of the razor clams,” I said. “Can you take back the dish?’
No explanation was proffered as to why the promised razor clams were absent.
When the plate returned it indeed had two nice, fat razor clams on it. The Manila clams were also excellent, but the pasta itself was slightly overdone and overwhelmed by a sauce that tasted, oddly, not of clams or of anything piscine but rather of meat or fowl.
In the clear light of morning, I looked at the menu again and noted the three asterisks next to the name of the dish I had ordered. The night before, in the restaurant’s romantic lighting, I assumed that they were directing me to a warning that consuming raw or undercooked meats could lead to instant death. But it turned out the relevant menu footnote was “Our local razor clams may be temporarily unavailable due to weather changes and will be substituted by Manila clams.”
Fair enough, but the razor clams clearly were available. Was the footnote there to handle a real eventuality, or rather to allow the kitchen to arbitrarily withhold razor clams?
This is the kind of quandary that never happens when I cook for myself.
Also of note that evening, Porto Vivo has a new chef de cuisine, Giuseppe Napoli, formerly of NEO in Atlanta. Porto Vivo is at 7 Gerard St., Huntington, 631-385-8486.