Wednesday, June 1, 2011

BIts & Morsels - Best lobster rolls

The Lobster Roll at Lure Fishbar.

by Erin Frankel

At the start of summer, lobster rolls start to become one of the Maine events in New York City. So what if we are trading balmy seaside dining for hot, dirty, congested city streets, especially when New York City does have some of the best lobster rolls around. Here’s a list of the best that I've reeled in so far:

Ditch Plains
Price: $28

Landmarc’s Marc Murphy tries not to make things too fancy at his casual fish shack in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. When it comes to his lobster roll, the intention is simple: lots of lobster and not much else. And simple doesn’t have to mean boring. If you are a mayo minimalist, you will appreciate the method here. The Ditch Plains lobster roll is made with large, plump chunks of chilled lobster sprinkled with a dollop of aioli mayo, scallions, celery, tarragon, parsley, and old bay seasoning; all piled inside of a hot dog bun. Murphy replaces the mayo with roasted garlic and Dijon mustard, allowing the simple, sweet flavor of the lobster meat to coalesce in your mouth. The outcome? Mmm good.
Ditch Plains.
Flex Mussels
Price: $26

Flex Mussels is clearly known for something else (its mussels ARE top-notch), but they also offer a variety of other shellfish options, one being a mean lobster roll. The Flex Mussels lobster roll is ideal for those petite foodies with smaller mouths and appetites. The lobster roll here is definitely on the less generous side yet the zestier, lighter flavors of the seasoning shine through with all three bites. It's made with small chunks of steamed lobster with celery and seasoned with lemon and a unique citrus aioli on a lightly buttered toasted bun. There is also a nice helping of flex fries on the side. Flex Mussels is a relative newcomer to the NYC lobster roll scene, but it’s got great potential.
Flex Mussels.
Pearl Oyster Bar
Price: $29

The line snakes down the block for the legendary lobster rolls at this tiny West Village shack, but it’s worth every minute of the wait and the tight seating quarters at the bar. Pearl Oyster Bar is by far one of the smallest and most crowded dining rooms in New York City, which is a testament to the timeless popularity of the lobster roll. Get here before 10pm because the rolls are sold until they run out, ensuring ultimate quality and freshness each day. The Pearl Oyster Bar roll is traditional, simple, reliable, and saturated with creamy deliciousness. Inspired by chef Rebecca Charle’s summers in Kennebunkport, Maine, it's made with oversized chunks of succulent, fresh lobster meat that is fused with celery, lemon, and pepper and grazed with lots of mayonnaise. All of these wholesome flavors are topped with lettuce and sandwiched inside of a cooked and crisp buttery bun (the best of the bunch) and accompanied by a heaping portion of shoestring fries (which I like to insert inside my roll). This is a timeless favorite.
Pearl Oyster Bar.
Fishtail by David Burke
Price: $19

Make your way to the Upper East Side for a more upscale yet inventive take on the lobster roll. Chef Sylvain Delpique strays from your traditional lobster roll, but the edgy, spicy, and fancy flavors still won me over. The lobster roll here is made with a full one pound of lobster out of the shell that is cut up into tiny pieces and seasoned with a spicy red curry mayonnaise, cabbage, carrots, red onions, celery and roasted garlic. To top it off, it's sprinkled with shaved scallions. This is all sandwiched inside of a grilled brioche roll. It's huge and extremely filling, which doesn’t leave much room for sides once you are done. However, if you have a big appetite, Delpique’s housemade pickles and hot, crispy fries add an extra layer of deliciousness to his wildcard bonus lobster roll. The twist here is exquisite ... both in presentation and in taste.
Fishtail by David Burke.
Mary’s Fishcamp
Price: $32.70

Most West Villagers will remain committed to what they claim is the best lobster roll in New York City. I came to Mary’s Fishcamp with this pretense and was underwhelmed. It is the most expensive on this list, yet one of the smallest. It is modest and uncomplicated. The roll is made with smaller chunks of tender lobster, intermingled with scallions and celery, and doused with mayo inside of a hot, crunchy buttered hot dog bun. If you like your lobster rolls creamy, traditional, and simple, this is most likely your go-to neighborhood spot.
Mary’s Fishcamp.
Lure Fishbar:
Price: $29

Make your way down to this sophisticated, posh SoHo restaurant for an upscale version of a traditional lobster roll. Lure offers a refined roll that is luxurious in presentation and flavor. Lure's lobster roll is made with chopped fresh lobster diced with celery and cucumber and mixed with Tabasco, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and a lot of mayonnaise, stuffed inside of an elongated, scooped out, crunchy brioche roll. It's one of the largest and most filling versions, but if you save room for the savory sides, Lure’s deli pickles, coleslaw, and your choice of French fries or vinegar chips are also top notch.
Lure Fishbar.
Luke’s Lobster:
Price: $15

Some people claim Luke’s Lobster is the best newcomer on the restaurant scene. Luke's is expanding his Lobster Roll Empire in Manhattan very quickly (with a fourth location opening this week in the Financial District). It certainly is the most affordable roll and retains the traditional Maine flavors and textures, which mimic the laid-back vibe of the small, casual lobster shack in each NYC location. Luke Holden, a 26-year-old whose father owns the Portland Shellfish processing company, has his lobster steamed in Maine and shipped to all three of his locations in Manhattan each day, ensuring the utmost freshness and quality. The lobster roll here is small, fresh, and light ... and not overwhelmed by mayonnaise or butter. Chunks of tender claw and knuckle lobster meat is dusted with various spices, including a fair amount of salt, thyme, paprika, and is sandwiched inside of a toasted, lemon-buttered hot dog bun. Luke’s Lobster is an experiment in the making ... but a successful one at that.
Luke’s Lobster.
Ed's Lobster Bar
Price: $27

Ed's Lobster Bar is an old favorite in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. The tight quarters are a testament to the quality of the lobster roll here. Made with one and a quarter pound of lobster, the meat is mixed with lemon, salt, and pepper and is served on a warm hot dog bun served with a side of fries and Ed's delicious housemade pickles. Come here for a traditional, light, flavorful roll.
Ed's Lobster Bar.
Photographs by Erin Frankel.
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