Dear Mr. Gold:
One of my favorite experiences with my dad was driving to a pier in Freeport, Long Island, on a cold winter day and having the best Manhattan clam chowder ever. Most places in Southern California serve the New England–style clam chowder. I’ve had some outstanding New England–style chowder here, but I can’t find a memorable Manhattan chowder outside of New York. Could you recommend any places in Southern California?
—Eric, South Pasadena
To tell the truth, I can barely think of a great tomato-based Manhattan chowder in Manhattan. They serve one at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central, but the New England chowder there is clearly better, and my favorite chowder in town, at Pearl’s Oyster Bar, is creamy in the best New England style. (The chowder at Mary’s Fish Camp is tomato-based, but spicy in the Floridian style.)
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In Los Angeles, Astra West, the semihidden lunch restaurant in the Pacific Design Center, has Manhattan chowder on the menu sometimes, and it’s pretty good, spicy and full of clams. The Crab Cooker in Newport Beach practically specializes in the stuff — almost everybody gets a plastic cup of it to go along with their fried fish or crab — but it isn’t much. The Dal Rae has Manhattan chowder on the menu, but it’s a pretty perfunctory dish. Which leads us, inevitably, to the clam chowder at the Hungry Cat, which is as New England as they come, creamy, tomatoless, and spiked with potatoes, spartan vegetables and smoky bits of Nueske’s bacon — it’s as good as it gets. Astra West, 8687 Melrose Ave., Suite 180, Los Angeles; (310) 652-3003.