Thursday, May 16, 2013

Luke's Lobster Review [Soft Opening]

The GF and I were invited to Luke's Lobster's soft opening, which amounted to a tasting of the fresh Maine offerings that are slated to hit Rittenhouse Square today, May 16th. Located right next to Underdogs, this seems to be the perfect location for lobster rolls. But is Philly in need of another lobster roll? There are quite a few, including those at Oyster House and Stephen Starr's Route 6. But I suppose the better question is - is Philly in need of a great lobster roll? As I tasted Luke's offerings, the answer is a resounding yes! Better yet, it's more affordable than its competitors and dare I say, the quality of the crustacean is allowed to shine.

Typically, lobster rolls are associated with prices that surpass the $20 pleteau. In fact, at Oyster House and Route 6, lobster rolls are $26 and $24 respectively. And unfortunately, compared to Luke's Lobster, those rolls are overdressed in mayo, which masks the innate sweetness of the succulent lobster. So how are Luke's low price points possible? It all starts with the source - fresh Maine lobster from his own seafood company, which maintains relationships with local lobstermen. 

Just hours after being farmed from Maine's waters, the lobsters are steamed, picked, and sealed in bags to lock in their freshness and prevent contamination. This maintains consistency and freshness throughout all of Luke's Lobster's outposts. And with multiple locations in NYC and DC, it's prime time Luke and his business partner, Ben Conniff, brought these bad boys to Philly. 

In addition to samples of their rolls, Luke's Lobster graciously had some beers and wine on ice for the soft opening. So enough talk - let's get on with the food and drink!

Peak Organic Summer Session Ale
Peak Organic Brewing Company 

Allagash Black Belgian Stout
Allagash Brewing Company

The Peak Organic was a dry hoppy pale ale with a light lemon finish and a bit of fizz. The stout had some dark chocolate elements on the nose and the taste brings about some nice spice notes. Tasty.

Dry Riesling
Thirsty Owl Wine Company

This was a nice iteration of the varietal – apple aromas with a dry citrus finish. 
Served in a mason jar no less!

But of course, they've got a bevy of Cape Cod Chips and a variety of Maine Root Soda as well.

But really, I suppose we're here for the meat of the matter. Lobster meat that is. And perhaps some crab and shrimp.

Lobster Roll ($15)
w/ soda, chips, pickle ($17)
w/ beer, chips, pickle ($20)

Don’t be alarmed by the size – this was simply a sampler of sorts. But just take a gander at how packed the roll was! It’s only meaty claws and sweet knuckles here. In fact, you may as well take your first bites with a fork, lest a few claws of lobster meat spill from your roll. With minimal spice and mayo, the lobster is unadulterated – as it should be. A slight spritz of lemon accentuates the sweetness, all encapsulated by a perfectly toasted and buttered roll. And no surprise here - even Aziz Ansari loves it!

Crab Roll ($12)
w/ soda, chips, pickle ($14)
w/ beer, chips, pickle ($17)

The crab roll was filled with a glut of sweet chunks of meat. With a dash of ‘secret’ spice, the crab took on a bit of a smoky profile, which I enjoyed. And for those of you that enjoy even more heat, there are plenty of Siracha bottles around!

Shrimp Roll ($8)
w/ soda, chips, pickle ($10)
w/ beer, chips, pickle ($13)

The rolls were filled with an abundance of shrimp. They had a nice snap to them because - you guessed it – they were fresh. The smoky spice helped to balance out the innate sweetness of the shrimp, with the butteriness of the roll bringing the sandwich over the top. 

Ben Conniff and Luke Holden (right)
I’ll be back in a few weeks to try the Noah’s Ark, which is essentially each of the rolls and two each of the sodas, kettle chips, and pickles – all for $38! I was excited to see that claws were also on the menu, and from what I hear, these empress claws are guaranteed to ‘empress’ your taste buds! So I just might have to try those bad girls as well.  

It's a blessing that Luke decided to leave his finance career behind and pursue his passion, stemming from his years lobstering on the coast of Maine. And with his business partner Ben (who he found on Craigslist!), it's no surprise they're on Zagat's 30 under 30. From what I could see tonight, the staff at Luke's Lobster's Philly outpost is extremely upbeat and passionate about Luke's vision. I asked Luke whether he envisioned additional locations throughout Philly down the line. At the moment, he's completely focused on the Rittenhouse Square area, which seems to be in line with their overall vision - high quality and consistency over simple profits.

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