You must have seen those colorful, mouthwatering advertisements from the Red Lobster Restaurant chain inviting us to their annual “Lobster Fest.” Photos of delicious looking lunches and dinners are seducing many of us seafood lovers trying to cut back in today’s economy, but still yearning for a nice restaurant meal.
You either love lobster or you hate it. Some religions even forbid eating lobster; but having lived in New England most of my life, the lobster to us is sacred. A lobster dinner at a restaurant is reserved for the most special occasions. If your date takes you out for lobster, he is a “keeper.”
It is almost impossible to ruin a lobster. All one has to do is plunge the poor live crustacean into boiling salt water or beer, and boil it for 10-15 minutes. I was told it dies a quick painless death. The cooked lobster meat is firm, tender, sweet and delicious.
In my family lobster is an expensive luxury, reserved for the most special times. My husband turned 40 when we lived in Boston, and his brother surprised him by bringing an already cooked 20 lb lobster, bought at Atlantic Fisheries.
With warm, freshly baked Italian bread from Mike’s Pastries in Boston’s North End, lots of melted butter and beer, the party turned into a lobster orgy. That party and that lobster are now important parts of our family history. We love Uncle Frank.
Last year when my husband turned 70, Uncle Frank again brought lobster to the party. This time he flew from Boston to Tampa, where we live now, with a 10 lb. live lobster, carefully packed with ice and seaweed in a big cardboard box. The lobster came from Legal Seafood, one of Boston’s best fish restaurants. Again we celebrated in fine style.
My health has not been good lately, and my husband has been particularly helpful driving me around and going with me to doctor’s visits and hospital lab tests. This week there were four medical trips, and I decided to show my appreciation, and take him to the Lobster Fest at a Red Lobster restaurant which was near the hospital in Tampa.
The first Red Lobster opened in 1968 in Lakeland, Florida. Today, there are more than 680 Red Lobster locations in the United Stated and Canada. Red Lobster is owned by the Darden restaurant chain that also owns the Olive Garden and Bahama Breeze restaurants.
Red Lobster promises the “finest seafood the sea has to offer” and is relentless in the “pursuit of freshness and quality.“Unfortunately, we could not agree with these promises, after we visited and ate their food.
I had eaten at a Red Lobster about 10 years ago and don’t remember being disappointed. Maybe I didn’t order the lobster.
So with high expectations, we went for lobster at the Red Lobster on Dale Mabry in Tampa. The restaurant was clean, bright and attractive. At 3 in the afternoon it was practically full. There was a group of nursing home residents just leaving, and several large family groups celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.
We were seated at a nice table and were served by a polite, attractive waitress, who efficiently handled several tables in our area.
We were handed our menus. On looking at the Lobster Fest items, we immediately noticed that most of the lobster selections were for Rock lobsters, which are found in warm waters like the Gulf.
Although Rock lobsters superficially resemble true lobsters that grow in the cold water of the North Atlantic, they are very different. They do not have claws like Maine lobsters do and they taste more like crawfish or langostinos.
Rock lobsters or spiny lobsters as they are sometimes called, are the biggest food export of the Bahamas.
Fortunately the Lobster Fest menu did feature two Maine Lobster selections, and we chose the Bar Harbor Lobster and Shrimp Trio….. Bar Harbor, Maine is a beautiful town on the Maine coast which we love. The sea food there is awesome.
The Trio was described as a split, wood-grilled lobster tail, garlic-grilled shrimp and a creamy lobster and shrimp bake, served with broccoli and crispy red potatoes and sprinkled with sea salt. Asparagus was offered at an extra cost. The price was $23.99.
We also ordered the lunch combination: a fried fish and scallop plate with French fries, at $9.99, and a glass of house chardonnay and a diet coke. The meals included a Caesar salad and their famous cheese biscuits.
Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? But we were disappointed.
-The Caesar salad was OK.
-The Cheddar biscuits….. were heavy, greasy and salty and a disappointment to bread lovers..
-The Vegetables….The broccoli was perfectly cooked, fresh and crisp, but the roasted potatoes were flavorless. They were not crispy. They tasted and looked like leftovers. The french fries were hard and dry.
-The Fried fish and scallops were excellent. The best part of the meal..
-The Grilled shrimp were drenched with so much butter, they had no taste.
-The Split Grilled Maine Lobster tail was soft and mushy, overly salted and drenched with so much melted butter that it was tasteless. More melted butter was served on the side.
-The Lobster, Shrimp Bake consisted of small scraps of lobster, I did find some tiny pieces of lobster claw, and some small shrimp baked in a cheese sauce topped with a few bread crumbs. The sauce was tasteless, and the combination tasted like something you could get in the frozen food section at your local super market.
The bill plus tip came to $58 .We did not order dessert.