Tuesday, June 5, 2012

gigi's sotto mare

i miss being in san francisco. heck, soon i'll be missing chicago which i would probably consider my second home, wherever i end up being in the future. well, if that is the case, then SF is my third home >.<  since it has to be my most visited city in the US and as a plus, a foodie town at that.

if you're in the city and you're not savoring the fresh seafood it has to offer, you're doing it wrong. especially a dish where its birthplace is san francisco - an italian-american fusion, the cioppino. i've read time and time again, the place to get your fill of this hearty seafood stew is at gigi's sotto mare who boasts to be "the best damn cioppino" in the city. crab cioppino, to be exact.


well, this i have to try. i've had a couple of ciopinnos before and i have to say they were pretty good. so during my last visit earlier this year, i had to see how does this one measure up to its counterparts. searching for the restaurant didn't take too long as long as you have the address and a gps. getting a parking spot might be a harder task than finding sotto mare. 

sotto mare's decor is reminiscent of a cozy seafood shack embellished with a ton fishing/fish related memorabilia and photos to give the place its own personality. on top of that, oddly i could tell it was a family owned joint - probably because we were so warmed by the friendliness of the hostess and staff. the dining area was narrow and tight but bustling with hungry diners.



it was busy when we arrived but thank goodness we only had to wait for about 5-10 minutes for our table. and i'd say we had the best seats (or worst.. take your pick - i'd still say it's the best and R thinks so too) in the restaurant - we were seated at the counter where we could see the chef doing what they do best and we were next to the server's station so we could drool over what other diners ordered.



seafood is my weakness so it was quite a challenge to pick what else i wanted to order besides ciopinno. usually when i come to SF, there is another item on my food wishlist besides cioppino - the clam chowder.


boston clam chowder | with entree ($5/cup or $6.50/bowl)


a bowl of creamy, hearty clam chowder. a generous amount of fresh clams were cut up into good sizes so you can still taste the clam instead of chopped up to non-existence like how a few other places i've tried before. definitely one of the better clam chowders i've had, if not the best. seasoned well and very good with the bread that they serve on the side. 


the "best damn crab cioppino" with seafood | enough for two! ($38)


the main reason why were were here in the first place. i am not gonna lie - it took a while before we got our dish that i was on the verge of starving. and i think it didn't help that i saw the chef cooking up multiple orders of cioppino as we were waiting and each time i'd think one of them was ours.



first and foremost, it is definitely enough for two (at least for me and R). we weren't sure at first but we were both stuffed at the end of the meal. before you dig into the piping warm stew, the staff bibbed us up cos it's gonna get messy! we both kinda laughed at each other when we had our bib on. lol.




it was an abundant amount of fresh seafood - mussels, clams, crab, shrimp (there were both big and tiny) and squid with penne pasta all swimming in a lovely savory tomato sauce. the sweetness of the fresh shellfish imparted a ton of seafood flavor through the extended stewing time (which explains the waiting...i watched the chef do that - perhaps drooling while at it) that complimented the tart, savory tomato stew so well. even though it was extra work to break out the crab meat from its shell - oh... it was sooo worth it. the messiness involved? well, that's what the bib is for! and the roll of paper towel at the table.

we added a dash of salt to intensify the layers of flavor (it wasn't bland just thought it needed a touch of salt) but i'd say that it is the best cioppino we've had so far. the only one thing that R wasn't too crazy about with the dish was the tiny shrimps that they used in the cioppino - which he never really likes tiny shrimp in any dish just because he thinks that it doesn't add anything to the dish. i had no issues with it but i understand where he is coming from.


sotto mare not only serves great food, it was also a really enjoyable place to eat. it was fun watching the chefs doing working their magic in the kitchen and even more fun that you could tell how close the staffs were, listening to them teasing each other. now i can vouch that sotto mare serves the best damn cioppino in town - but you'd have to either come with a friend or a really HUGEEEE appetite to try this big bowl of deliciousness.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.
Sotto Mare on Urbanspoon

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