Saturday, August 27, 2016

Here's to a glorious week of coaxing sweet lobsters out of their shells

Just about the best deal around is the $19.95 Twin Lobster Special on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at Meson Madrid, a Spanish restaurant in Palisades Park, served with soup or salad, rice, bread and addictive house-made potato chips.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, Jack's Lobster Shack in Edgewater offers a special 1.5-pound Lobster Dinner with salad, corn and coleslaw (market price). Last Tuesday, the dinner was $25.95 a person.
This week, the ShopRite in Paramus had a big sale on live lobsters --only $5.77 a pound for any size, with a limit of 10 pounds. We bought four lobsters totaling 6.15 pounds for dinner last Sunday, and boiled them at home for 15 minutes, above.

Editor's note: I've updated this post with a photo of a Lobster Salad in a Dijon mustard-lime dressing I made at home late this afternoon.


The lobsters were young, the customers old.

In my quest to eat as much luxurious lobster meat as I could this week, I dined out three times and cooked this glorious crustacean twice at home.

At two early dinners and a lunch out, the youngest people there were servers and other staff.

It seems like retired folks with means don't have much else to do in the afternoon but eat out.

On Thursday night at Meson Madrid, which offers a twin-lobster special for $19.95, my wife looked around at the other customers and said she felt like she was eating in a nursing home.

Earlier that day, I met two friends for lunch at Esty Street, a stuffy, dimly lit fine-dining restaurant in Park Ridge that serves a mediocre Lobster Caesar Salad for $24.

We were the only ones seated in the dining room, but a handful of other customers in the bar appeared to be in their Seventies and Eighties. 

The story was the same at around 4 in the afternoon at Jack's Lobster Shack, an informal BYO with a nautical theme that serves lobsters "direct from Maine," but doesn't offer an early bird special.

The big draw at Jack's on Mondays and Tuesdays is a 1.5-pound Lobster Dinner for about $10 less than at other times, and on the day we went, the place was filled with seniors. 

At home last Sunday, we enjoyed a simple dinner of sweet lobster claw and tail meat with greens and a glass of wine. I ate mine with a splash of fresh lime juice. Three of us shared four 1.5-pound lobsters.
At Jack's Lobster Shack in Edgewater, my wife was wowed by her Crab Cake appetizer ($11), served over mixed greens and crowned with lemon aioli. 
My Fried Calamari appetizer was tender and greaselss, but at $9, not as good a deal as the Crab Cake my wife had.

Jack's Lobster Shack

We made our first visit to Jack's in Edgewater to celebrate a special occasion, but were pleased to see we could take advantage of the 1.5-pound Lobster Dinner Special served on Mondays and Tuesdays (market price).

My wife said her Crab Cake appetizer was "to die for," and she's eaten them in Maryland and just about everywhere else.

The lobster, salad, corn and coleslaw were terrific, and we'll definitely go back. We enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy, with the food at this River Road BYO.

If I have a choice, I always prefer a whole live lobster over a Lobster Roll or Lobster Salad, because I can do without the bread, mayo and butter.

I really enjoyed the premium spring mix in the salad with Jack's Lobster Dinner Special. When you pay full price for the dinner, soup and pickle also are included.
At Jack's, you place you order at this counter and the food is delivered to your table in the dining room, which is decorated with lobster traps and other gear. During our meal, a server cleared a metal dish of shells and brought us more napkins. 
Jack's Lobster Shack is at 1040 River Road, Edgewater; 201-224-2808. BYO, free street parking and a municipal lot with a pay station. 
Open 7 days. Reservations only accepted for parties of 8 or more. Website: Jack's Lobster Shack
Esty Street's classic Lobster Caesar Salad is served as an entree at lunch for $24, but only contains half of a small lobster. In a recent newspaper article, owner Kim Costagliola was quoted as saying that as a dinner appetizer, the same salad includes "half of a 2-pound lobster," but the price wasn't given.

Esty Street

Stuffy restaurants with exaggerated reputations like Esty Street in Park Ridge have never been my cup of tea.

But I was drawn there by a newspaper photo of its classic Lobster Caesar Salad dinner appetizer, which turned out to be made with a bigger crustacean than the same salad served as a lunch entree.

The difference wasn't mentioned in the article, typical of the sloppy reporting by the paper's restaurant reviewer.

The Caesar dressing appealed to me, but hearts of romaine were used, instead of the leafy green part, and they looked and tasted like iceberg lettuce.

The salad also includes roasted peppers, avocado, candied walnuts and crumbled bacon, but I got mine without that last ingredient.

Don't bother

At lunch on Thursday, the dressing had no pizzazz, and I would have liked to see a tablespoonful of the restaurant's arugula pesto crowning the overpriced salad ($24).

Or, the chef could make it with a dressing I use for Alaskan King Crab Salad: Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, ground cumin and other spices.

One of my friends also ordered the Lobster Caesar Salad, and was disappointed. But my second friend wisely chose an entree of Jumbo Sea Scallops ($23), and was very happy. 

There were other problems at Esty Street that have no place in such an expensive restaurant:

My knife was dirty, so I put it aside and used a butter knife to cut my lobster tail; when I ordered coffee, the cup set down in front of me was dirty and had to be replaced; and the coffee, poured from a pot, looked like dishwater and tasted weak ($4 with one refill). 

Where is the nearest Starbucks?

I hate flies in dining rooms, but saw one at Esty Street; Jack's Lobster Shack, where the filthy insect landed inside my empty wine glass; and Meson Madrid.

And although Esty Street offered more than a half-dozen specials, the waiter who recited them was speaking so quickly we had a hard time understanding what he was saying.

Another classic at Esty Street -- the arugula pesto made with pecans and served with the restaurant's bread, according to the newspaper -- was nowhere to be seen at lunch on Thursday. Instead, we got butter.
Esty Street's bread is ordinary, but bearable, if you ask for some extra-virgin olive oil for dipping, above. The restaurant is at 86 Spring Valley Road in Park Ridge; 201-307-1515. Website: Not worth the detour
A glass of smooth House Cabernet is $8 at Meson Madrid, 343 Bergen Boulevard in Palisades Park; 201-947-1038. The salad with the Twin Lobster Special comes with French Dressing, below. Website: For Lobster Lovers
When is the last time you saw dressing served in a boat?

Meson Madrid

This outpost of paella and other classic dishes from Spain hasn't changed since my last visit many years ago.

You can still find a box outside the restaurant for donations of used eyeglasses, cases and so forth.

On Thursday, we returned to Meson Madrid for the unbeatable Twin Lobster Special, served with soup or salad, house-made potato chips, rice and bread for only $19.95.

My wife liked her entree, Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Linguine for $18.95, but couldn't finish it. 

The service was great, and I heard waiters telling customers the Twin Lobster Special was available that night. 

At Meson Madrid, you get enough bread to make two Cuban sandwiches, but it's not worth the calories or carbs.
We didn't touch the rice served with the Twin Lobster Special, but couldn't stop eating the house-made potato chips. I paused only to take this photo. A friend who goes there frequently says you can ask for more.

This morning, I returned to the seafood department at ShopRite, 224 Route 4 east at Forest Avenue in Paramus, to pick up more live wild-caught lobsters for dinner (201-843-6616). The $5.77-a-pound sale ends today.
This afternoon, I boiled five small lobsters from ShopRite for 12 minutes, and extracted the tail, claw and knuckle meat for a Lobster Salad, dressed with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, ground cumin and coriander, as well as Costco Wholesale's Organic No-Salt Seasoning. Other ingredients were diced sweet pepper, celery, scallion, fresh strawberries, and herbs from my garden, including fresh mint. I served the salad over organic spring mix with tomatoes as a garnish.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please try to stay on topic.