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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lobster Rolls.

I don’t eat seafood too often these days. I do like me some fresh sashimi or sushi on occasion. Or some roasted crab with garlic noodles if I really want a treat (and don't mind the tedious work and mess). But I do have a strong love for lobster, most notably in lobster rolls. The straightforward no-nonsense kind with buttered and grilled brioche bread with slits down the middle and stuffed with fresh lobster meat with a light mayo dressing. Most places mix in some chopped celery, but, unless it is just a barely noticeable speckling of celery, I prefer scallions instead. The first time I ever had one was while on a trip to Boston. I pretty much haven't been able to stop thinking about them since.

I’ve scoured the city for where to find good lobster rolls, but only came up with a handful of sure bets. Anchor & Hope ($24), Nettie’s Crab Shack ($35 per roll, gasp!), Thermidor ($18), and Woodhouse Fish Company ($17 for half or $24 for full). Of these four city joints, I've only tried Woodhouse Fish Company and it was delicious. But, if you don’t mind just a short drive away, you can get them at Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay ($20) or Sam's ChowderMobile ($15 or $10 for a shortie).

But, if you’re really serious about this whole lobster roll thing, you will want to go the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City ($18.75 for one or $35 for two).

And one glorious holiday Monday following July 4, I was serious about it. I met the owner, Russell Deutsch (who used to also own the now-closed SF location called North Beach Lobster Shack). See how the bread might masquerade as a hot dog bun? Don't be fooled, dear friend. It is, in fact, not even remotely close to a hot dog bun. It is a rich, dense brioche with a delightfully chewy texture that is so satisfying. And, if you ask nicely, Russell will sell you a tidy row of 12 buns for $6.50. When I thanked him for such a well executed meal and expressed my sadness at its distant location, he told me that he closed the SF city location down because constantly removing graffiti was a hassle and there just wasn't enough parking for the customers who just wanted to get their hands on a lobster roll. He has a good life now focusing his efforts on his extremely busy Redwood City location. And for good reason. His lobster roll is p-e-r-f-e-c-t. He grills up a fresh baked brioche roll and generously stuffs it with at least one CUP of lobster meat dressed in a light mayo sauce with green onions. It is served with a basket of french fries, some pickles and coleslaw. Simple perfection. It’s an expensive treat for sure, but let me tell you - it is worth it. It transports me to a hot summer day when you want a refreshing cold sandwich and tall glass of iced tea. Or some cold, local beer.

Since we're all drooling over lobster rolls, I really should mention that the other dish you that will surely win your lobster-loving heart is the Shanghai Lobster at Chinois on Main in Santa Monica, CA. Every time I go to visit my brother in LA, I have to go get this dish. I cannot get enough of it. The thing about this particular Wolfgang Puck restaurant is that everything is perfectly seasoned. Every bite you take is the most flavorful and delicious bite you have had. The Shanghai Lobster starts with steamed rice that is most likely wok-fried and seasoned with some elusive Chinese salt and pepper spice mix. The chef pan sears fresh lobster (warning: do NOT sit at the bar if you are squeamish about these things) and assemble all of the lobster meat (tail and claws) atop the rice. A slightly sweet but deeply savory curry sauce made with plum wine and heavy cream is poured all over the lobster and rice. Then, the whole plate is piled high with a large mound of fried spinach leaves that taste light light pillowy fluffs of the best tasting spinach you have ever had in your life.

Summer + Lobster = Bliss. Or Summer = Lobster, however you visualize the equation.

Update: I took those brioche buns home and froze half until I get my hands on some more lobster. In the meantime, I made a nice salmon sandwich with broiled salmon topped with cabbage coleslaw and scallions. Winner. I am also hoping to try a veggie version and a breakfast version, maybe with sliced banana and pecan butter.

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