Articles & Reviews: SF Weekly


Sam's Chowder House Expands to Palo Alto, Puts Killer Sardines on the Menu

by Trevor Felch Wed., Feb. 26, 2014

Sweet and sour sardines at Sam's Chowder House, Palo Alto
photo by Trevor Felch

Away from its original, idyllic oceanfront spot just north of Half Moon Bay, Bay Area diners were at first very skeptical about how Sam's Chowder House would evolve. Could the Sam's vaunted lobster roll really taste as good without a background of surfers and sea lions?

Instead of being just a carbon copy of the original, the Sam's in Palo Alto has taken on its own identity. The menu shows more ambition and creativity thanks to chef Robert Holt. After serving as executive chef for Campo 185 during its brief run in the same space (under the same ownership as Sam's), Holt remained for the restaurant's transformation.

The much-maligned sardine is always a great litmus test for a chef's talent with seafood. Holt's sweet and sour preparation ($8.25) even overshadows the famous lobster roll. And it's only served in Palo Alto.

These fish are local, from right off the Half Moon Bay coast. They're actually substantial in size, weighing in around three ounces each before cleaning. As an appetizer, two are plenty. And they should be eaten with the skin on. Holt cures the sardines in-house for about three hours in two kinds of vinegar, sugar, and toasted coriander seeds. Together, the skin and thin filet have a slight fishy, umami tinge.

The sardines are given a pleasant jolt from accompaniments that could easily overwhelm their soft texture and flavor. Holt's multiple visits to Sicily inspired the combination of castelvetrano olives and golden raisin agrodolce, a mix of syrup and chutney. What could be a too sweet palate coater is perfectly balanced with the sourness of white balsamic vinegar. I couldn't help but think how this has the same extremes of Bi-Rite's salted caramel ice cream, translated into a fish dish. Citrus slices add a final garnish.

As simple and rustic as this dish is, there are an unordinary amount of compelling flavor contrasts to make the sum of its parts far more exciting than the list of ingredients.

Now, about that lobster roll you see at least half the dining room digging into. It's a winner, full of oversized chunks of moist meat given some heft from a fair amount of butter. But I'd trade the sunset view any day for these superb local sardines with a Sicilian accent.

185 University Ave., Palo Alto; (650) 614-1177.

Articles & Reviews: Inside Scoop SF

Inside Scoop SF

Sam's Chowder House opens in Palo Alto

Posted on 11/11/2013 by Paolo Lucchesi

Sam's famous Lobster Roll
Lobster rolls.

Today is opening day for Sam's Chowder House in Palo Alto, the first sequel to the popular Half Moon Bay seafood restaurant from Paul and Julie Shenkman and chef-partner Lewis Rossman.

Sam's Chowder House, Palo Alto - signOpen for lunch and dinner, the new Palo Alto branch is the successor to the same owners' short-lived Campo 185. The 120-seat University Avenue space has been given a quick two-month, nautical-themed makeover.

The chef remains Robert Holt, the Marzano vet who came aboard during the Campo days. The New England-style seafood menu takes its cue from the Half Moon Bay outpost, including Sam's signatures like the lobster roll and clam chowder. However, Holt has added a few new dishes, like cured Monterey Bay sardines, with golden raisin agrodolce, castelvetrano olives, and Satsuma mandarins ($8.25) and blue crab and artichoke fritters ($12.50).

In addition to the two Sam's locations, the Shenkman-led restaurant group also owns Osteria Coppa in San Mateo and three Sam's ChowderMobile food trucks.

Sam's Chowder House: 185 University Ave. (at Emerson), Palo Alto; (650) 614-1177 or Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday, 11:30am-2:30pm, and Saturday-Sunday 11am-5pm. Dinner Sunday-Thursday from 5pm-9pm, and Friday-Saturday 5pm-10pm

Articles & Reviews: San Francisco Business Times

San Francisco Business Times

Sam's Chowder House Announces Grand Opening of Palo Alto Restaurant

New England Style Seafood now served daily for lunch and dinner on University Avenue

Nov. 18, 2013

Sam's Chowder House announces the Grand Opening of their second restaurant, located in downtown Palo Alto at 185 University Avenue.  The 120-seat restaurant reflects the core concept of the popular Half Moon Bay flagship destination, reminiscent of a New England style seafood house, with an Oyster Bar, live lobster tank, and simple, nautical decor.

Captain's PlatterLobster Roll

Executive Chef Robert Holt leads the kitchen with a menu that features fresh, seasonal ingredients and signature menu items such as Clam Chowder, Sam's award-winning Lobster Roll, Fish and Chips, live Maine lobster, fresh local crab, Ahi Tuna Poke, Oyster Bar items, fresh daily "catch of the day", and fried calamari, as well as specialties specific to the Palo Alto location such as Blue Crab and Artichoke Fritters, Barbequed Shrimp Po' Boy, and Slow-Roasted Pork Spareribs. Holt honed his skills in key leadership roles at top Bay Area restaurants such as Boulevard, Square One, Acquerello, and Oakland's Marzano restaurant where he earned a three-star review from San Francisco Chronicle critic Michael Bauer. He was also chef de cuisine for chef Melissa Kelly at Primo restaurant in Rockland, Maine. His farm-to-table approach and love of seafood can be traced back to his upbringing in rural Texas, where his father was a farmer and fisherman. At Sam's, Chef Holt's menu showcases the natural flavors of the freshest ingredients, and all sauces, dressings, and desserts are house-made.

Sam's comes courtesy of Shenkman Hospitality Group and restaurateurs Paul and Julie Shenkman, business partner and Sam's Chowder House Executive Chef Lewis Rossman, and Vice President of Operations Patrick McElroy. Known for a passion and dedication to farm-fresh cuisine, their portfolio of restaurants includes Sam's Chowder House (Half Moon Bay, CA), Osteria Coppa (San Mateo, CA), and Sam's ChowderMobile (three gourmet food trucks), which jointly serve 50,000+ guests monthly in the Bay Area.

Open seven days a week, Sam's Chowder House is at 185 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301. Open for Lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5:00 – 9:00 pm, and Friday and Saturday 5:00pm to 10:00pm. Major credit cards accepted. Takeout and private dining available. Reservations: 650.614.1177, or Facebook @samschowderhousepa.

Articles & Reviews: 7x7SF


650 Eats: Lobster Rolls, Sushi and Burroti

Excerpt from article by Mary Ladd on November 19, 2013

Lobster Roll
Lobster from Sam's Chowder House

New restaurants with seafaring menus are popping up in the 650 and the neighboring 408. Nab a taste of Maine via lobster rolls, which are the starting stars at a new chowder spot in Palo Alto. Further afield, a new and big shopping center dining space gives way to upgraded "get-yer-fill" possibilities, which always crosses our mind after meticulously scouting the best retail finds. In the "that's so adventurous" category, monkfish liver fans may want to partake in a taste of ankimo as part of the sushi scene at a new spot in Burlingame.

Some famous lobster rolls have come in from the foggy coast: Sam's Chowder House just opened in Palo Alto, which means a potential seafood boon for those who can't trek to the original Half Moon Bay location or hunt down Sam's via the three popular Chowder Mobiles. At the new University Avenue restaurant, there's a heady bar scene and familiar dishes from the sea: oysters, prawn cocktail, chowder and a not-to-be-missed crisp and hot version of fish and chips. Chef Robert Holt (Boulevard, Acquerello, Marzano) has the keys to the kitchen here, and has added dishes for the new location that aren't (yet) found at the other locations: barbequed shrimp po' boy sandwiches, blue crab and artichoke fritters, and pork spareribs. Fittingly, Holt was the chef de cuisine at Primo restaurant in Rockland, Maine and grew up in rural Texas, where his father was a farmer and fisherman--in other words, he knows his stuff. 185 University Ave., Palo Alto; (650) 614-1177.

Articles & Reviews: SF Weekly


Peninsula Dining Update: South Bay's New Wave of Seafood Restaurants

Excerpt from article by Trevor Felch on Fri., Nov. 22, 2013

Lobster Roll plate

University Avenue and Lytton Plaza aren't quite as mesmerizing as a Half Moon Bay sunset, but now Palo Alto feels a whole lot closer to the coast. Sam's Chowder House opened its second branch last week in the former Campo 185 space, which was owned by the same couple as Sam's in Half Moon Bay. Robert Holt remains executive chef, after serving at Campo 185 during its brief run. The much-acclaimed Sam's lobster roll made the trip to Palo Alto, along with seafood favorites like the Sam's Crab Louis and both Manhattan and New England-style clam chowders. Holt's new seafood creations include the autumnal California king salmon served with red kuri pumpkin puree, Brussels sprouts, and Fuji apple/pomegranate syrup. Lunch brings a sandwich focus with items like a barbeque shrimp po'boy with romesco aioli. The remodeled restaurant reflects Sam's nautical theme. 185 University Ave., Palo Alto; (650) 614-1177.

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