Friday, July 06, 2012

Lunch from New England Lobster

On a recent trip back to the east coast (rural upstate New York and New Hampshire), I quickly learned not to order the dishes I was used to eating, as restaurants there may have menus that *sound* good, but they really, really fail to deliver at the level of even a mediocre restaurant here.  I was foolish enough to even try the foie gras at the only restaurant within a 2 hour drive of my parent's house that serves it.

Once I wizened up and started embracing the local cuisine instead, I did have some fantastic food.  In particular, the east coast can make some killer fish and chips!  It really made me wish we had haddock here, and that people ate more fried food! (Do you know anywhere to get great fish and chips in the bay area?)

But I digress.  One thing that I didn't have, but really wanted to, was a lobster roll.  There I was, just an hour from the Maine coast, and I didn't have one!  I've been craving one ever since.  So when the long holiday weekend rolled around, and I had the chance to visit places that are only open during the week for lunch, one place immediately rose to the top of my list: New England Lobster.

Now, I just got done talking about how the right thing to do is embrace local cuisine!  When in New England, get the lobster.  When in California, get the produce, get the local seafood, etc.  Right?  And, I've pretty much universally been disappointed with all lobster I've had in California.  But ... this place had great reviews.  And even though it was located way out of the way in South San Francisco, I still thought it was worth a try.

Why?  They are primarily a lobster wholesaler and have been in business for 25 years.  They also have a storefront selling live lobsters and crabs, fresh lobster and crab meat, frozen lobster tails, shrimp, scallops, and some other seafood.  But first and foremost, their business is fresh, live lobster.  And a few months ago they opened a lunch trailer, parked outside in the parking lot.

The trailer serves exactly three items: lobster roll, crab sando, and lobster and corn chowder.  The incredibly limited menu also made me hopeful - they weren't wasting time with any superflous dishes!  Everything is served to go, although there are a few picnic tables and a counter with some bar stools to sit at.  On the day we were there, it was insanely windy and everyone was eating in their cars.

Service was pretty fast, and we quickly received our goodies in styrofoam containers.  Since there were two of us, we decided to get one of each sandwich, and split them.  We were craving the lobster rolls, but given that the crab was fresh local dungeness, how could we NOT try that one too to compare?

The seafood salad in both sandwiches consists of just the meat, a little bit of mayonaise, and salt and pepper.  Nothing more.  No fillers.  Just high quality, fresh seafood, being allowed to shine.  On the side of the truck is a condiments station, so you can dress up your sandwich as you please.  If you want to add some crunchy fresh vegetables, it includes cubes of celery, onion, and jalapeño.  And some horseradish spread, old bay seasoning, Hellman's mayo, and hot sauce.

The food was quite good, and I'd return if I was ever craving either of these dishes again.  And I'd definitely like to try out the chowder too.  And if I ever want to just pick up some live lobster or crab, or some fresh crab or lobster meat, or some frozen seafood, I'd certainly consider going there.  They clearly deal with quality, fresh, product.
Lobster roll,  traditional New England split-top roll.  $15.50.
Each sandwich comes with a bag of potato chips, a wedge of lemon, and small container of coleslaw.

The chips were generic Tim's plain potato chips.  I kinda wish they would include some classic new england chips, like Cape Cod kettle chips!  Or something more notable.  But, we weren't there for the chips.

The coleslaw was also fairly forgettable, not all that fresh and crunchy, not all that flavorful.  It did have nice plump raisins in it.

The roll was a split top brioche roll, very heavily buttered and toasted.  It was the sort of roll that left your fingers glistening for hours afterward, no matter how well you washed them.  I kept wiping my hands off while eating it, and my dining companion just laughed at me saying it was useless.  The butteriness did go well with the lobster, but it was kinda overboard, and I'd have preferred it to be less buttered.  (As a side note ... I ate some of the lobster salad without the bun, just to really taste the lobster meat.  Which meant that I had some very buttery brioche roll left over.  I brought it home, re-toasted it in the toaster oven, and added some foie gras pot de creme from 4505 Meats on top, and it was AMAZING.  Wow.  The decadent buttery brioche went soooo well with the foie.  I know I'll never get it there, but if they'd serve that roll loaded up with foie ... that would be amazing!)

The filling was a cold lobster salad, with a generous amount of lobster meat, large chunks, very lightly dressed.  It was fresh, tasty, and definitely the best lobster I've had in California.  I did find three pieces of shell in my half however, one of which I actually choked on.

I added celery, onions, and jalapeño to mine, and appreciated the crunch they added.  As a whole I preferred this sandwich to the crab sandwich, although I liked the crab salad more than the lobster salad.

$15.50 is a little pricy for a sandwich, but seems pretty reasonable for the amount of lobster meat included here.
Crab Sandwich, San Francisco sliced sourdough, lettuce, tomato. $14.
The crab sandwich also came with chips, slaw, and lemon wedge.

The lemon went very well with the crab meat.

The sandwich included a fairly generic piece of lettuce and very out of season tomato slices.  We both quickly removed the tomato.  I'm sure that nicer tomato would have gone well in the sandwich, but this was just mush and seeds.

The bread was unfortunately sourdough.  Sigh.  My life would be easier here if I liked sourdough.  But I really, really don't like it.  The bread seemed high quality, and my dining companion really liked it, but it really ruined the sandwich for me.  It was oiled up and toasted, definitely more oily than I'd like, but not as much as the lobster roll.  However, it worked much better with the lobster than it did here, the oil overpowering the more delicate crab.

The crab salad was also served cold, and like the lobster salad, it was just lightly dressed with a little mayo, salt, pepper.  The crab meat was all shredded, no chunks.  There was a TON of crab meat in here.  I wish I had taken a picture from a better angle so you could see the quantity, it was pretty impressive.

I added some of the horseradish spread to my sandwich, and thought it paired fantastically.

I really loved the crab salad, it was fresh, and tasty.  I struggled through some bites with the sourdough, and eventually just admitted defeat and ate the crab salad by the forkful, or wrapped up in lettuce, and enjoyed it even more.  If I had to eat one as a whole, I'd prefer the lobster roll, but given just the fillings, I'd definitely pick the crab.  I wonder if I could get the crab salad in the lobster roll bun?  I'm not sure how well that would work ...

$14 is again a little pricy for a sandwich served out of a truck, but there was an insane amount of crab in here.
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