This Enormous Clam Doubles as Your Dinner Plate

Fabio Trabocchi cooks a SAVEUR Supper and reveals the allure of the Japanese taragai

By SAVEUR Editors

Published on March 9, 2016

Taragai clam sashimi with tongues of uni and cavuiar

Fabio Trabocchi spoiled us at dinner last night. The chef's SAVEUR Supper involved everything from caviar and uni to burrata and black truffle: all greatest hits inspired by his suite of restaurants in Washington DC. That uni and caviar repped Fiola Mare; del Mar was spoken for with enormous carabineros and—inexplicably delicious—cod tripe. Casa Luca's course was all about dessert: a fudgy slab of chocolate with a crispety-crunchety torrone gelato on top.

But the rarest treat of all wasn’t the uni or calvisius oscietra in the first-course crudo: It was the clam that formed the base—an enormous one that looked like an oversized scallop but with the meaty, muscular flavor of sea bass or swordfish—like no other bivalve we’ve ever tasted, or even seen.

It was a taragai clam, a specialty from Japan that's nearly impossible to find outside the country except at high-end restaurants that fly it in. Eric Ripert plays with them from time to time at Le Bernadin in New York, and Trabocchi gave the flesh, which shares scallops' clean, mellow vibe but with a firmer texture, the sashimi treatment, topping it with tongues of uni for a potent dose of brine and some caviar because why the hell not. Several of us fought for seconds.

Chef Trabocchi plates his clams

Sure, the geoduck is larger, but the taragai is far more elegant. It’s a delight to eat raw, for one, and then there’s the shell: A massive, jewel-like thing that you’d expect to see adorning the coffee table of a globe-trotting gallery owner. When cooking with taragais, chefs like Trabocchi often opt for using it as a plate, and considering it’s two to three times the size of a scallop shell, it works perfectly.

Taragai clams are rare sights, but if you’re trawling, say, Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, give them a gander. And if you’re served one, ask about keeping the shell for your next dinner at home.

See more scenes from our supper below.

Editor-in-Chief Adam Sachs with Fabio Trabocchi
Seafood ruled the night, and this tuna with roe was no exception
We kicked off the night with these incredible buttery rolls
Trabocchi with writer Julia Bainbridge
Writer Kate Donnelly, writer Gillie Houston, and test kitchen director Farideh Sadeghin
Editor-in-Chief Adam Sachs pours wine for Buzzfeed Food editor Sarah DiGregorio
Enormous carabineros with tiny beans and (shockingly good) cod tripe
Tongues of uni for the clams
The carabineros in all their glory
Photographer Christina Holmes with test kitchen director Farideh Sadeghin
Restaurant writer Alan Richman, digital director Jessica Glavin, Jetty-Jane Connor, and Tanja Yokum
Tarajia Morrel, Melanie Dunnea (of My Last Supper), and deputy editor Yaran Noti
Aqua Panna and San Pellegrino...for when we needed a break from wine
The crowd gives Trabocchi's team an ovation
For dessert: squares of rich chocolate topped with Spanish torrone gelato (and some edible flowers for good measure)

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