Restaurant Reviews

Dancing the Lobster Quadrille

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We whet our appetites with six blue-point oysters ($12), served with mignonette (a good red wine vinegar with chopped shallots) and a horseradish-y red cocktail sauce. They were stimulatingly icy and sweet, like a kiss on a winter day, and if they'd been plucked from a tributary of the Long Island Sound diverted down Plaza Real road, they couldn't have tasted fresher. A half Australian lobster tail ($24) had been flash-fried inside a weightless batter and served with creamy mustard sauce and clarified butter. I barely tasted the mustard sauce, because a chunk of this animal (which I hoped, as I chewed contentedly, had been murdered humanely and not dropped screaming and writhing into a vat of boiling oil) was best sampled dripping with melted butter, and I couldn't bring myself to share a bite of it. The meat was surpassingly tender cooked this way. My father-un-law polished off his $10 plate of lettuce, which had been convincingly disguised as a luxury item in blue-cheese dressing and diced, thick-cut bacon and tomato. There was some really delicious bread too: pumpernickel rolls stuffed with minced onion, sliced French bread, sweet raisin and nut loaf that fostered alpha brain waves when spread with soothing layers of softened butter.

I sipped my Gold Digger and listened to my unspouse name the many reasons she could become accustomed to eating lots of T-bone steaks and garlic-roasted Alaska king crabs at Chops. "Does this mean you're going to continue to claw your way up the soul-destroying corporate ladder at UniBank and forget about pursuing this silly three-year plan to go to law school?" I asked hopefully. "Because I don't think your pro-bono work for the transgendered semi-Olympic croquet team of Palm Beach County is going to pay for many porterhouse steaks with béarnaise sauce."

Somewhere along the line, my significant other has gotten the idea in her noggin that work is supposed to be satisfying and meaningful. "What meaning do you think I derive from eating fried calamari with lemon-caper aioli four nights a week?" I asked her. "Grow up. Life is just a lot of slogging through P.R. packets that read like the unabridged edition of War and Peace. "

She wasn't listening because she was oohing over what she pronounced "the most delicious fillet of sea bass [$34] I've ever had."

"That's Chilean," I said sourly. "I'd think a downwardly mobile do-gooder like you would recognize an endangered species when you saw one."

The sea bass was cooked "Hong Kong style," steamed in a delicate sesame-ginger soy broth in which bright-green spinach leaves had been barely wilted. There was a mound of florally scented sticky rice along with it. The fillet was buttery and unctuous, and a bite of it coated the mouth in waves of velvet.

I'd ordered a 22-ounce prime, bone-in, char-grilled rib eye ($39) — broiled, our waiter confided, at 1,200 degrees. How it is possible to expose a piece of flesh to this kind of heat and still have it come out cool and red in the center, as I like it, I can't say. It was nearly black on the outside, covered with a wonderful, fatty, crusty layer, and inside it was "to the tooth" as the Italians might say of their pasta — chewy in a good way and very rich in flavor, texture, and visuals. As I gnawed closer to the bone, it got better and better, because the bone juices, marrow, and fat had sort of caramelized.

Father-un-law expressed a lot of satisfaction with his planche-roasted king salmon ($27), a fish secure in the expression of its unalterable salmonness, the color of a Kodak sunset, and with a distinctly wild flavor. He liked that our waiter had asked him how he wanted it cooked ("they never ask me that at the diner"), and he ate steadily through the plate until he'd scooped up every morsel of buttery sauce, along with the good eight ounces of rib-eye I'd forked over for him and at least three quarters of the dish of Little Joe's spinach and mushrooms ($10, serving for three) and all of the rest of the bread. Then he allowed how he had saved room for an order of chocolate toffee cake ($10) and even a bite or two of my liqueur-infused banana cream pie ($10, as light as the toffee cake was heavy).

As you might imagine, the selection of wines, ports, Sauternes, cognacs, trendy vodkas, and rare malt whiskeys is expansive and eminently suited to a place that serves "Mishima Ranch 'Wagyu' kobe beef New York Strip" steaks.

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Gail Shepherd
Contact: Gail Shepherd