Saturday, January 29, 2011

How The Mighty Lobster Falls

As a preschooler, I was the little girl who was off talking to myself during recess, whispered to Christmas trees and cried when we couldn’t take the wilted, lonesome ones home with us a-la Charlie Brown, and befriended animals. One night at a local seafood joint with my mom, I encountered a lone crustacean in the tank next to our booth, only to discover that he was to be plucked from his prison to be boiled alive and served with butter. Combine that lovely, somewhat traumatic story with the extra cash it takes to order a lobster dinner and you might understand why I’ve never cracked one open myself! That is, until Thursday.

This past week marked the first of two dineLA restaurant weeks, where trendy eateries offer 3 choices on a three-course set menu. Prices range from $16, $22 or $28 for lunch and $26, $34 or $44 for dinner.  Last time this deal came around, a friend told me he took his girlfriend out to Enterprise Fish Company for a lobster dinner – only $34! This time, I booked us a table for two so I could finally shut my eyes, ignore the imagined-cries of my lobster pal, and taste what I’ve been missing.

Enterprise Fish Company is a family spot, with two-tiered seating and big, wooden tables. The high beam ceilings and a view of the seafood being chopped, crunched and sliced lend to the “I’m on a boat” vibe. I chose Boston Clam Chowder over Manhattan and though the other two entrees seemed like more enticing options (pan-seared Basa Swai with citrus jasmine rice and Cioppino wild shrimp, king crab, scallops, clams and muscles in a spicy tomato sauce), Quinn and I both ordered the lobster. Huge mistake.

 My dreams of soft, buttery lobster meat and the thrill of ripping that claw off to find even more inside were quickly squashed by the dry, rubbery truth of a less-than-fresh presentation. As I tried to move past the fishy aftertaste, I realized I could barely cut what dry meat I’d been given. I don’t think I’ve ever sent a dish back in my life, but unfortunately paying $70 to eat soup and crème brulée was too much for my wallet and my disappointed taste buds. Our extraordinarily exuberant waiter was more than accommodating, and our desserts (and another glass of wine) slightly made up for the sub-par lobster meal.
The manager assured us that over 100 people had ingested that chewy mess, and they hadn’t had one complaint. Quinn told me that the only other time he’d had lobster, it was at a lobster shack in Baja California – fresh seafood caught right off the coast. Upon further inspection, we noticed that the lobster we received was from Main, clearly frozen and shipped to California. My chef stepfather said that when they freeze the lobster, water seeps into the flesh and makes for a pretty second-rate dish.

I’ve had over-the-moon meals at Enterprise, including near-perfect garlic and parmesan crusted Alaskan Halibut with bacon sautéed spinach, so I won’t necessarily count this against them, but I do know I won’t be ordering lobster from just any seafood restaurant in the future.

Enterprise Fish Company
174 Kinney Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405


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