One of my favorite things to do on tours of Flushing Chinatown is to show off the live seafood on offer at J-mart. Watching the razor clams wriggle when nudged is always a hit. They’re sold live, and apparently at least at Randazzo’s on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, eaten that way.
So when my pal B.A. Van Sise and I decided to make a pilgrimage to the real Little Italy, I knew we had to try the wriggling mollusks.
When we got to the stand they weren’t on the menu, but the fishmonger went inside to get a half dozen. After he shucked them whilst making the requisite jokes about their effect on male virility, he hit them with some lemon, and the real show began. “It’s moving a lot,” we both exclaimed as the mollusks reacted to the acidic juice, and suddenly B.A. didn’t seem so enthusiastic about trying them any more. He was game enough to slurp down two and seemed to enjoy it. I thought they were quite lovely, sweet and meaty and less briny than other clams. They were certainly better than Korean sannakji, or live octopus, which seems to be little more than a party trick.
As we left I found myself thinking that I would never try live geoduck and two nights later I found myself at M. Wells Steakhouse listening to the waiter describe a special called geoduck a la peacock. Thankfully it was not live. Rather it consisted of slices of mollusk, interspersed with shaved radishes and topped with a chutney of sorts made from green tomato and apple.
For dessert there were more mollusks, or at least their shells. Faux escargot consists of four snail shells that have been filled with sweet cream beached in a lake of sweet sauce strewn with raspberries and fellen pollen. A misting of pastis adds to the sense of some sort of Daliesque seaside snack.
M. Wells Steakhouse 43-15 Crescent St., Long Island City, 718-786-9060
Randazzo’s Seafood, 2327 Arthur Ave., 718-367-4139