Thursday, October 12, 2006


Growing up in Downeast Maine, one eats a lot of lobster. It costs about half as much there as it does in New York or Boston, and because Maine has such a long coastline – roughly equivalent to that of California – there are unlimited places to choose from. Lobster and clambakes are traditional, as is the typical New England no-fuss service: lobster is boiled or steamed whole and served with butter, or it is chopped, mixed with mayonnaise, and served as a lobster roll in a grilled hot dog bun. There are some exceptions (count on seeing the hot lobster roll from The Maine Diner in Wells make an appearance on this page before long), but generally you know what you’ll get when you order lobster in Maine, especially whole lobster.

Because of this upbringing, it never seemed sensible to order lobster in the city at the exorbitant prices charged. The only reasons to buy one seem to be: 1) to impress a date, or 2) to try a tempting twist on the basic presentation. The latter is, of course, sacrilege for a Mainer. And yet, we can’t stay away from the steamed lobster with miso butter at Blue Ribbon Sushi in SoHo (119 Sullivan Street). This is neither a cheap dish nor a cheap restaurant (although more affordable items like the eel rolls are outstanding), but it bests the tried and true Maine version because of that rich dipping sauce. The miso butter is creamy, not separated into something resembling that jar of fat saved from the Thanksgiving turkey. It doesn’t get too fancy, doesn’t fool with what works, in that the main taste is distinctly butter. Of course, since this is a high-end sushi restaurant, the lobster meat is soft and tender. The lobster is halved, the tail is presented inside-out, that is, meat-over-shell, but they leave the claws and legs to be cracked by the customer. Because of the price, this is a dish best saved for a special occasion. But if the type of food that excites you is the kind that makes your mouth water more than Pavlov’s mutts when it pops into your memory in the middle of the day, this is a good place to start.

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