Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Lobster- Santa Monica

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My visits to Los Angeles are minimal. After all, even after a year and a half of the blog, I still haven't visited a restaurant nearby LA. Until now.

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Summer however brings the opportunity to relax a bit more and enjoy the surroundings. So, we decided to visit Santa Monica again, after about a year or two of not going back. This time, we already had a restaurant planned out thanks to my dining companion, who ate at the Lobster recently with a friend and thus wanted to take us there again so we could try it out.

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We departed to Santa Monica early on in the morning for an early lunch at the Lobster. However, the Lobster was not ready yet for us. After sending off the car to be parked by the valet operated for the Lobster, we enjoyed the view for a while before going inside.

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Oh, and if you are thinking where it is, that is easily solved. It is located right next to the famous Santa Monica Pier entry! Who would have thought.

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Inside, we waited at the lobby area of the restaurant for our table. As we sat down on their comfortable chairs, other guests started to arrive. Some even got to enter the restaurant first, even if they came before us.

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Tucked in the corner where we were waiting were multiple plaques, notable ones from AAA, Zagat, and Los Angeles Magazine. The rest of those plaques were operating certificates such as who was manager and such.

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What was really interesting though about the Lobster itself was the layout. The lobby "inside" was open to the outside, and there was this open-air area in between the main dining area and the lobby.

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Inside, no lights were on. Instead, sunlight was the main source of light. But what was the most interesting other than the view were a group of fish flying near the ceiling.

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Other than the fish, the interior of the restaurant was simple, with crisp white linens and straw furniture.

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Outside, it was really beautiful. And the restaurant was empty too. So how come we did not sit right next to the window? Because the seats were reserved. Some even with special golden plaques saying the name of the customer.

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See? Pretty panoramic view of Santa Monica beach. Too bad the waiter's menus got in the way of the photo. And the blurred out black rectangle next to the glasses is actually one of the "reserved for" plaques.

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Sitting down in our seat a few tables away from the window, bread arrived as we pondered what to order from the menu. Now when did dim sunlight bring such a pretty picture? I like. I would be even better if the menu was away and so were the plates in the back. :)

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Most restaurants serve butter along with their bread, but in this case, it was a herb olive oil loaded mainly with parsley, if I remember correctly. EDIT: This was chimichurri, thanks to Elmomonster's comment and a PR email I received from the Lobster.

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And was the pairing delicious? Most definitely. The crust was on the thicker, chewier side and the bread inside was soft and went very nicely with the herb oil. Who would have thought?

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The menu was a simple, two paged menu with various salad and mainly seafood options. Not willing to take on a full out oyster, clam, crab, and lobster fest we chose different items instead.

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All of our appetizers arrived at the same time with just a short waiting period in between. One of my companions ordered the Organic Baby Greens (9 USD) which were exactly that plus some fennel, cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan, and red wine vinaigrette.

Oil and Vinegar

The salad was good the way it was with the simple flavors and layout, but for an extra punch we requested some vinegar. Who knew it would come in such a pretty container though? Piling the vinegar on, we could tell it was of a high quality as it was thicker and more flavorful compared to most balsamic vinegars that we have tried.

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In contrast to the salad, my other companion and I both ordered the Manila Clam Chowder (10 USD) with applewood smoked bacon and Weiser Farms mixed heirloom potatoes.

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There were three special things about this clam chowder. The first was that the clams were still in their shells, which prompted my companion to order it because during his last visit his companion had this appetizer. The second thing was the addition of carrot, which made the soup slightly sweet. Lastly, the soup was not thickened much at all with the exception of a bit of dairy added into the soup.

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To me, the clam chowder was quite different from usual. The clams were whole and were very juicy and fresh, as if they haven't been been cooking in the clam chowder for long. Yet, the clam chowder still had lots of clam flavor as well as the sweetness from the carrot. I wished there was more liquid, as there was a tad bit extra of celery, carrot, onion and potato versus the liquid. Otherwise it was pretty good, but some people may still yearn for the more conventional New England style clam chowder that is thick and hearty. Take your pick!

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Our main courses soon arrived. My dining companion who ordered the salad had the Grilled Australian Barramundi with roasted butternut squash, spinach, crispy pumpkin seeds and aged balsamic (24 USD) as recommended by our server who said it would be similar to taste like seabass. The fish was nicely grilled and fresh, and went very well with the items served alongside. Interestingly enough, the fish actually went great with the squash and the balsamic vinegar, giving it a earthy sweetness. And more balsamic vinegar from the oil and vinegar bottle made it even better.

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My other dining companion had the Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut (28 USD) with morel mushroom and fava bean ragout, celery root mash, and port wine reduction. This again was pretty good with a good sauce pairing and fish that was not fishy and cooked very nicely. If they didn't tell me I would not have known there was celery root in the dish! I thought it was all mashed potato. Evidently not. No wonder why it tasted a tad lighter compared to your usual.

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And I ordered the Santa Monica Style Lobster Roll (23 USD) on a toasted roll with fries and pickled cucumber. Mainly for two reasons: I wanted to compare it to what I had at Salem, MA (near Boston) at Victoria Station, and plus I wanted to try something lobster since the restaurant was called "The Lobster."

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Looking yummy, yes? The description was a bit off. The toasted roll was more like a burnt brioche roll (at least for one side), and I had to scrape it off. Actually, I didn't eat the burnt portion and enjoyed the rest! Plus there was butter lettuce which I didn't really care for. But the real thing that matters is really the lobster salad.

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Haha...getting a bit too close. But how about first an excerpt from my review on Tripadvisor on the lobster roll I had in Salem:

"And for our entree, we tried the "overstuffed" lobster roll, which was around $18 dollars. It was pretty good. The roll had a char to it- it was a little too charred in our opinion (it could have just been dark brown instead of black), and we had to scrape off some of it. But it actually complemented the flavor of the lobster. The lobster salad was dressed well with the mayo and celery. There was just enough mayo to coat; it was not overly dressed, and it helped smooth out everything and combine them together. We didn't get much celery however. The only downside was that there was a small bed of lettuce on the bottom, and that there was some purple lettuce to garnish. We would have liked even more tantalizing lobster; the lobster was tender with some chew, and was flavorful! Lastly, there was a fun mini fork that was put in on top of the middle of the roll, which to us was pretty fun. It made it easier to pick out the lobster out. On the side of the lobster roll we asked for a baked potato, which was normal- nothing special, but tasted good."

-BSA126, "One word: WONDERFUL!" @ Victoria Station, Salem, MA on Tripadvisor. 2008

As for the Santa Monica version? The mayo was very light again, but this time the celery came up more. I could taste it quite well even if it was cut into tiny pieces. The celery actually worked quite well with the lobster; it almost seemed like as if it was bring out the sea flavor of the freshly cooked lobster meat. And the parsley/cilantro added brought some freshness. I'd say it was quite similar to the one I had in Salem, other than the fact that the bread could have been toasted less while being more soft on the inside, and the fact it felt a bit healthier with the addition of celery and herbs.

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As for the pickles and french fries, I loved both of them. The pickles were very nicely marinated- not too sour, and a bit sweet too. Peppercorn added some firepower to the pickles while the rice (?) vinegar made the pickles not too sour. Just the way I like them!

And the french fries? Delicious. Crispy, thin, buttery on the inside, and most importantly, very fragrant. A different league from McDonald's fries for sure. I could eat these alone and savor the fragrance of the potato. These were not greasy or oily either unlike some fries. When I requested for ketchup, the server very nicely replied, "I'll be back in a second." How nice. It just makes me comfortable to hear that. But that's what a restaurant at this caliber should be doing in terms of service!

Yes, 4 dollars more compared to Salem, but you get a fantastic view (like at Salem too) and also a nicer dining environment. And slightly larger serving. :)

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Overall, I quite liked The Lobster. Having not been in the area for a long time it was another taste of fine dining in about a year or two. It's particularly special at the fact the glass architecture makes it fabulous for a ocean view, and the food is good. There are definitely a lot of very comparable places out there; I just need to visit more places and write about them. But if you are lazy to find restaurants and want the prime location, you'll have a pretty nice meal here. Plus, you don't get to enjoy such a location everyday, so might as well go for it. :)

The next post? Some photos of Santa Monica. Just can't let that 10+ dollar parking go to waste, especially after a 40+ minute drive.


The Lobster
1602 Ocean Ave.
Santa Monica, California 90401
Tel: (310) 458-9294

The Lobster on Urbanspoon

10 comments:

elmomonster said...

Wow! A lobster roll in LA! And with a price to match. Ouch. 23 for a sandwich. But I guess it IS a lobster sandwich.

Looks like the owners might be Argentinean? I'm not sure but that oil and parsley thing could be chimichurri!

sinosoul.com said...

So, we were walking on the pier on Tuesday, and staring at The Lobster thinking: will we ever eat there? probably not. S Irene's review mentioned $41 per pound spiny lobster. Last night, I saw a local joint offering $7 lobster. haha!

EatTravelEat said...

Elmomonster,
It just could be but I have no knowledge on that prospect :(.

Sinosoul,
Exactly. Just need to find more places to try and find something to do to make it worth the drive!

Cookie Chomper said...

you might hit the jackpot with Blue Plate Oysterette's lobster roll right across the street.

Julia P. said...

I haven't been to this place for years!!! Thanks for posting:)

EatTravelEat said...

Cookie Chomper,
Thanks for the advice!

Julia,
You're welcome!

Alice said...

Very mouthwatering shots and descriptions! If I lived in LA, I'd go check it out! : )

EatTravelEat said...

Alice,
Thanks!

joanh said...

mm, looks so good! my sis has been wanting me to try the Lobster for the longest time, but I've yet to go. i think i'd definitely try the chowder and maybe the lobster roll. i've actually had a good lobster roll at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, but I haven't had on the East Coast to compare it too!

EatTravelEat said...

joanh,
Well thanks for the recoomendation anyway! I would have gone take a look if you told me two days earlier. LOL. ;)