Whole Lobster Fans - Share Your Favorite D.C. Spot!
Hi All -
I am hosting a couple from NY this weekend, and we have to celebrate a birthday. The guest of honor has been on a lobster kick lately and his wife hopes to find a place in D.C. where he can get a really superlative, simply prepared lobster while the rest of us eat well, too!
It was a little harder than I expected to find places that have just classic steamed lobster (at least with an online search - no Kinkead's, Black Salt, Blue Duck Tavern, Hook), but so far I've found whole lobster on the following menus:
Johnny's Half Shell
TenPenh/DC Coast (same preparation)
Ruth's Chris (soooo NOT my favorite place - wouldn't go unless a lobster lover really persuades me that the dish is worth the trip)
Do any of you lobster fans recommend or warn against any of these places? Do you have another D.C. spot that's a favorite for this meal? I know that there are some other highly touted lobster preparations around now (lobster burger, lobster sashimi, risotto, etc.), but I am looking specifically for a lovely, simple lobster at a restaurant with strong options for the rest of us as well.
The budget is wide open, as our guest has a very generous wife! :) Thanks in advance for any suggestions, chowhounds.
If you do a search for the Palm and lobster you'll find a query I posted several weeks ago about whether the Palm's whole lobster summer special was worth it. The consensus was no. We ended up going to Sea Catch for my husband's birthday and I was totally underwhelmed. He ordered the lobster bake special (shown on the webpage), which I found mealy tasting and not sweet at all. The rest of the food was just okay for the price (entrees 25-40). Over the years I had read favorable things about the place on this board but I left with the impression that they catered to tourists. We were able to snag a table on the canal, which I have to admit is probably the most romantic dining spot in DC. It's probably too quiet for a group of four though--with no music outside and relatively close tables it's hard not to overhear other diners. Except for maybe drinks on the patio, I wouldn't return here. There are certainly tastier crustaceans out there.
Folks love to bash the Palm on here for some reason but I've had the lobster there many times and I've rarely been disappointed. Since your friends are coming from NY and that's the birthplace of the Palm with 3 in Manhattan and more in the Hamptons, why don't you ask them if their familiar with the Palm's approach to Lobster. Contrary to your post, they don't boil them at the Palm. Instead they're roasted and then go under the broiler where the shell gets a little char. It's a fine way to do it as long as they're not overcooked and dried out. And by the way?. there was no unanimity in response to whether the summer special is a bargain or not. Put it simply, if you like the Palm and their lobsters then it definitely was a bargain at least compared to Palm lobster meal costs without the special.
RUTH'S CHRIS, Fairfax location. For years now when I go to Ruth's, I just order a whole lobster (4 pounds) and then mooch a lamb chop from my Wife. The lobster is fresh, not overcooked, moist, and two biggies for me:
1.)Served HOT. Now warm, but HOT.
2.)They shell the whole thing if asked. I'm not good at it and feel weird being a surgeon at the dinner table.
I've had it at Oceanaire and it was really good.
Also Old Ebbitt and Clyde's usually offer lobster specials during the summer. Great value.
The Fourth Estate Restaurant at the National Press Club offers a Lobster Dinner too. Really well done at a great price. Can't remember if they have it every night. It's open to non-members. BTW, they have an excellent crab cake. Much better than average "club" food because of "picky" journalists.
In case someone does a lobster search in the future, I thought I would follow up here... We ended up at Oceanaire, and it was OK. Got kind of an odd reception from the servers (and we're all early 30's and were well dressed) that I didn't much appreciate - I think sometimes an attempt to be serious and formal can come off as snobby... The food was not spectacular, although the whole lobster for the birthday boy was good (he said). He got it "dirty" - cajun spiced, a little charred, and removed from the shell. I didn't try it, but he was happy. Grilled calamari appetizer was very, very good - probably the best single dish of the night. Clams casino were fine. Spinach salad with bacon dressing was also OK. Crabcakes were large and had lots of crab, but my own simpler tastes are honestly more satisfied by Market Lunch. Swordfish with onions and blue cheese was very bold, close to a steak experience with char and everything.
A very nice touch was that the second server we had (snob #1 disappeared after the first 15 minutes) overheard me talking about our friend's birthday, and brought two enormous desserts on the house (baked alaska and brownies a la mode). We had already planned to do Dolcezza, so it was kinda of a weird thing to have such heavy sweets before we were ready and not exactly to our taste, but I did appreciate the gesture very much.
Amnbience-wise, there were lots of large groups - one right next to us in small alcove. In all, this place reminded me somewhat of a seafood version of Ruth's Chris. Extremely expensive for "classic" preparations; when they hit something simple right, it's great. But when it's mediocre, there's not much creativity, artistry or value to compensate.
Places like this always make me wonder whether the charms of an old fashioned, traditional upscale experience are just lost on me! I'm just a Peter Luger, Ray's the Steaks, crab shack type of eater at heart; I want earthy flavors, narrow scope, folk expertise on the plate, and I don't ever want a man in an apron to look at me with less respect than I have for him as a fellow working-class person... We happened to be treated to this meal at Oceanaire by a very generous friend; for my own money I would probably not go back. What this town needs is a Ray's the Lobster!