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BLT Fish Lobster Roll

When I learned I would be working in Gramercy Park, I knew I would be within striking distance of some of the best lobster rolls in Manhattan. I consulted my handy-dandy lobster-roll finder and noted that Pearl Oyster Bar, widely considered to serve the best roll in town, was only about 12 blocks away. The only problem was that they don’t open until 6:00. Based on Pearl’s tiny size and anticipated long lines I didn't think I could get in and out in time to be at work by 7:00.

With these time and distance constraints, I really only had one choice: BLT Fish, one of four BLT (Bistro Laurent Tourondel) restaurants in Manhattan. Not only was BLT Fish only two blocks away, it also opened at 5:30. (City Crab was closer still, but they only serve a lobster roll at lunch.)

So I was all set to have my first lobster roll in New York! I wasn’t expecting this roll to be particularly authentic. After all, this is the Big Apple where simplicity just won’t cut it, but I was intrigued to find out how the classic lobster roll would be reinterpreted. I wasn’t too concerned; while the risk of fooling with perfection looms large, any sandwich based on lobster wouldn’t have to work very hard to be great.

The three of us arrived a little after 5:30 and were almost the first customers there. Laurent Tourondel’s cookbook is displayed prominently at the door. The downstairs dining room seats about 50 at banquettes along the walls and at tables with Windsor chairs, and there is a bar in back with room for 12. We all ordered the lobster roll, which came out really fast. In a New York minute, I believe.

The roll itself was far from a cottony top-split frankfurter bun, but instead was a wonderful brioche roll of similar shape. They claimed it was grilled and it probably was, but think toasted instead; the roll showed no traces of butter or grill marks, just crispness. The lobster meat was cooked properly and had just the right tenderness and texture. Unfortunately, the dressing was a failure. I don’t know exactly what comprised this dressing, but what I tasted was mayonnaise with rather a lot of lemon juice, so much so that it was easy to identify the source of the tart flavor. Between the large quantity of dressing and the strong tang, I really couldn't taste the lobster at all; claw, tail, whatever, it was all buried in the soup. On the other hand, I had no problem with the vestigial amount of finely-diced celery. Great fries and cole slaw, though.

If the flavors in the dressing were in better balance, it would have been better, although I think there was still way too much of it. Since I didn't expect this roll to be authentic or even great, it wasn't a huge disappointment, but it hurt a little bit spending $24 for this thing. Sorry there’s no picture; my wife was using the camera that day.

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