Busan Food: Clam Seomyeon
My visit to Clam marked my first collaboration with ‘On the Road Busan’, a daily show on BEFM 90.5MHz, Busan’s English language radio station. Every week I will visit a restaurant, and offer an honest, insightful, and fun appraisal of the establishment. This will be aired every Friday at 10:15am, in ‘On the Road Busan’. Today’s visit had me excited, I hoped Clam could match my expectations!
First impressions were good. The front is bright and striking, with a nifty golden clam emblem emblazoned over green wooden paneling. The bar and open kitchen are clearly visible from the street, and the few stools and tables spilling out onto the pavement create a very relaxed, casual atmosphere. In fact, I was transported back to my time spent in Barcelona, where hip, trendy tapas restaurants spill out along the beachfront. The fact that Clam has accomplished this ambiance in central Seomyeon is impressive! You can see some photos of the exterior below, on on their Facebook page here.
I was ushered inside and brought behind the bar into the kitchen, to cast my eye over the ingredients that would be whipped up into tonight’s menu. The staff were all eager, pleased, even proud, to be given a chance to show off their produce and skills. The enthusiasm was infectious and I found myself examining the mountains of sparklingly fresh seafood, meat and vegetables with a huge smile on my face.
The manager, James, is an affable chap. He was more than happy to give me the history behind the Clam. A couple of years previously, the owner had visited Spain and walked the famous Camino de Santiago. On the route, he ate at so many fantastic Tapas restaurants, and fell in love with the style and culture of the food. He decided to try and bring it back to Korea.
To help him realize his dream, he’s assembled a team of chefs with impressive CV’s. One trained in Spain, another in Hong Kong. One even worked at a 2 Michelin starred restaurant! Between them, they speak 6 languages. What struck me most though was they are all young, friendly, passionate, and deeply care about the food they are serving. I was excited to eat.
Wasting no time, our first dish was whisked out. ‘Gambas al ajillo picante’. It was heavenly. Huge, black tiger shrimp, flash fried in a skillet with chili, garlic and olive oil, and served still sizzling with hunks of crusty bread. The shellfish were fantastically cooked, and the seasoning was spot on. The flavor profile is simple, fresh shrimp, smoky garlic and hot chili, but it works a charm.
Next we were served a selection of five Tapas. There are ten options available on the menu, and you can pick and choose, with prices ranging from 3,000-6,900. However, if the pressure of choosing is all too much, the chefs will create a platter of four or five tapas for you. We were served with ‘Pinchos de Champignon’ (marinated mushrooms bruschetta), Brocheta de caprese (a skewer of tomato, mozerella and fresh basil), ‘Tapas y vieira de langostino’ (A half scallop served in shell with shrimp) and the ‘Tortilla con huevo de chorizo’ (Spanish omlette with Chorizo). They were across the board good. Everything was hot, fresh and tasty. Special mention must go to the Tapas y vieira de langostino, where the seafood was again exquisitely cooked and seasoned. Along with the Tapas we were served with the ‘Pollo con salsa Romesco’ (Chicken with Romesco sauce). The chicken, as the staff were proud to tell me, is cooked in a sous vide (vacuum slow cooker) to retain all of its flavour and juices. It is then finished off in a pan just before serving for maximum tenderness. It didn’t disappoint, The chicken was sublimely tender, and the romesco sauce (a nut and red pepper sauce which originated from Catalonia) was delicious, and the perfect accompaniment.
By this point we were already full and happy, but the staff insisted we try one more dish. The choice was difficult, but we plumped for the ‘Pappilotte de salmon’ (Salmon and mixed seafood baked in a bag). When this arrived, it was cut open by one of the chefs, and the smells drifted out. Saffron, fresh seafood and garlic all filled the air, and we dived right in. Again, the fish and seafood were perfectly cooked, the seasoning was excellent, and the kicker was some sliced squid. Squid is notoriously hard to cook perfectly, without it going tough and rubbery. This wasn’t, it was soft and flavorsome and tasted like the sea. Fantastic stuff.
After our meal we had a glass of house made-sangria and soaked up the ambience. We had chosen to sit by the bar, all the better to see the fascinating open kitchen. However further back there are nooks and crannies that can offer a much greater degree of privacy for first dates, or loved up couples. The music is Spanish house music, extremely upbeat to keep things lively. The atmosphere is informal and fun, and it’s definitely somewhere you would want to come on a Friday night, with friends or co-workers, to get your weekend off to a flying start.
All-in-all I was hugely impressed by Clam. The food and service were truly exceptional, and I think the ambience will be a huge hit with the young Seomyeon crowd. They are opening a second branch in early July in the Pale de CZ building in Haeundae. This branch will have 8 new tapas items, as well as steaks on offer. If you are looking for a casual dining experience where I guarantee you will adore the food, I can’t recommend Clam enough. Happy Tapas!!
Clam is about equidistant between Seomyeon and Jeonpo stations. The best way to find it is probably to put this address into google or Naver maps: 683-23 Jeonpo-dong Busanjin-gu, Busan