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May 21, 2013 10:56 PM

Old Port Lobster Shack - Downhill alert or just wildly inconsistent? [Redwood City]

My dining companion and I were anticipating our meal at Old Port. We ordered the Ipswich clam appetizer, a Maine Roll and a steamed lobster.

The whole-belly fried clams, usually delicious, were greasy, under-fried and limp. Minutes ticked by. When our entrees finally arrived, we noticed my lobster was dark dark red, almost black. Not a good sign. After 3 attempts to crack the claw (note: I work out and am pretty strong), I handed the claw across the table and asked for an assist. After two tries, my companion was able to crack it. The meat was waaaayyyy overcooked. Dry, almost powdery. Some of the pieces in his roll were overcooked as well.

I flagged down the host, and she swapped out my lobster for a plate some of roll meat. It was slightly better, though some pieces were soggy and icy, others overcooked.

As we were leaving, we noticed the absence of a line out the door.
Our dinner was $70 (the only drink was a diet Coke). At these prices, I expect the lobster to be perfectly cooked. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth (literally and figuratively).

We've had similar experiences two out of our last three visits. After years of visiting OPLS, this former-Bostonite won't be returning anytime soon.

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  1. is this from the redwood city branch or the woodside branch?

    1. We went to the Woodside branch (counter service only) about a month ago and the lobster in the lobster rolls was definitely overcooked. Chowder was fine.

      1. This was the Redwood City location. It has gone downhill considerably. Clearly the guys in the back have not been taught how to properly cook a lobster. Not even close. We had been occasional visitors since it opened and it could be hit or miss but now it's a consistent miss.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ChewChew

          That's super sad. Come back, OPLS!

        2. Super sad as well to hear this. We'd come to expect it at the Portola Valley (not Woodside) location, but thought the original was a safe bet. When OPLS expanded to Napa and to San Francisco, it quickly failed in both sites due to horrible quality control.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            They expanded to Napa and SF? That's news to me. I don't see any mention of it on the site or on the web. They were slated to expand to Cupertino, but that never happened.

            I'd definitely bring the subpar food to the owner's (Russell's) attention. He's generally really attentive, and it's unbecoming for Lobster Shack to slip up like this. They ought to know if they're really unaware of it since there are few alternatives as-is.

              1. re: Jon914

                We plan to do that. We met Russell when he opened the RWC location and he struck us as someone who wants to get the details right.

            1. Yesterday I met a resident of Redwood City who had some interesting angles on OPLS that perhaps others might corroborate. First off, he encouraged letting the owner know about the problems.

              Then his theory for some of the drop off in quality is that other than items that must be cooked a la minute, much of the food is prepared in an off-site commercial kitchen (e.g., chowder) and has lost a little something in the translation. Also, much of the energy seems to be devoted to the food truck, ShackMobile.

              I learned that BBQ cook from Woodchuck BBQ (closed) is working at OPLS now, manning the Ole Hickory smoker.

              My old post on the St Louis style ribs, would love to hear if they're still good.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                It's interesting that you mention the truck. I frequented it quite a bit when it made regular stops on the peninsula during weekdays. It still goes out, but mainly on weekends to Piccetti Winery in the Cupertino hills. They dropped the weekday lunch shifts because they struggled to get enough business (I witnessed this because for a time, I had it every week).

                During that time, I also got to hear a bit about how running the truck took a lot of effort, and how they had to get up earlier in the morning to do all the prep work for the truck, which apparently differed from that for the restaurant. So in a way, it did sap some of their resources (plus Russell and his main host, Shay, traded off on manning it for a while), but they've now scaled back on it.

                The quality was about the same as the restaurant (lobster rolls, chowder, bisque, mac & cheese), but at a lower price point and without the hassle, so I'm a bit sad that they scaled down that effort relative to before, but I totally understand why.