The food: lobster salad/sandwich
The lobster roll served at Pearl Oyster Bar in New York city consists of a generous scoop of mayo-rich lobster salad served on a split hot dog bun fried in butter, served with frilly lettuce and fresh-cut shoestring fries. The dish is legendary, heavenly tasting, and expensive (usually around $27 for the plate) – a treat I savour whenever I’m in New York.
In search of something with which to appease my lobster cravings at home in Toronto, I tried the lobster sandwich at the King Street branch of bakery café Petite Thuet. I journeyed downtown to the King Street location under the mistaken impression that the sandwich would be freshly made there, only to have the counterman inside the small, stylish shop point me toward an adjacent refrigerated case where premade sandwiches sat inside clear plastic containers.
The $9 price was certainly right, and the bread looked appropriately artisanal and pretzel-ish:
BUT the sandwich was unpleasantly cold, the lettuce wilted, the inner edges of the bread soggy, and the
bread-to-lobster ratio too high in favour of the bread. And not only was the lobster almost lost within all that bread, its texture was more shredded than chunky. So yeah, not a big success.
Another day, another lobster salad for lunch: at Nota Bene, a restaurant with pretensions to greatness on Queen Street West in Toronto, I ordered the $24 Nova Scotia Lobster Salad with Avocado, Maple Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Buttermilk Dressing.
All the listed ingredients were present, but they were overwhelmed by the several handfuls of romaine lettuce that filled the bowl and made the small amount of lobster in the dish that much harder to find.
For an additional $8 ($8!!!) a bowl of pommes frites with pecorino cheese could be had alongside. The frites photographed well:
but were overcooked and hard, and the $32 tab for the salad and frites made Pearl Oyster Bar’s lobster roll with frites look almost like a bargain at $27.
Luckily, further searching led to the discovery of the most reasonably priced and satisfyingly good tasting lobster roll in Toronto: the one I recently assembled – not made – at home, using freshly made lobster salad from Summerhill Market, a gourmet grocery store in Toronto’s North Rosedale neighbourhood.
At $28.99/lb., Summerhill Market’s lobster salad with chives and a scant amount of mayo didn’t seem inexpensive until I unpacked about a half pound of it from the small container shown here, scooped it on Boston lettuce leaf cups over slices of chalah bread fried in butter, and made four pretty little open-faced sandwiches – enough to serve two as a light lunch, for only about $9 per person.
WIth a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over top and a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper, I didn’t even miss the frites.