The most delicious lobster I’ve ever eaten arrived on my plate a few minutes after being plucked from the sea, cooked over a wood fire with nothing to dress its succulent white meat but a little lemon and a little salt. In the hands of the right chef lobster is umami heaven, but it’s notoriously difficult to cook to perfection. Once they leave their natural habitat every minute, and how it's spent, counts, lest you lose the fragile delicacy of their flavor.
Lobsters have a metabolism that does not degrade with time - theoretically those that do not perish through mis-adventure can live forever - but providence plays a bigger role around taste than how old they are when “mis-adventure” lands them on your plate. Even with the right ecosystem, one rich with algae, minerals and salt, technique and speed are paramount.
Ryan’s Lobster Risotto, a signature dish with legions of fans this time of year, is in a constant state of play throughout the day here. Live lobsters move from wet burlap bundles to boiling pots filled with lemons and laced with paprika to ice water baths to halt the cooking process while the laborious cracking and picking of all the meat commences. Shells and empty legs go back into another pot of boiling water, this one vibrantly colored with saffron and fragrant with fresh tarragon. Cooked down, the resulting blond fumé will eventually be used to cook the risotto. Tiny jewels of carrot, celery and tomato are prepped, fresh favas shelled, chives and society garlic flowers come in from the garden. Shavings of lemon zest are gathered into little mounds. Fingerling potatoes are made into tiny chips, sprinkled with fennel pollen while still warm from the deep fryer.
And then we wait. When that first order comes clanking through the printer the dish must come together in a matter of minutes. After the risotto absorbs the fumé to an al dente stage, the mire poix is added, then the moist chunks of lobster meat. Off the heat, there is just enough time to sprinkle the dish with the dusky pink agapanthus and the zest before a crunchy nimbus of fingerling chips crowns the dish and it is rushed off to the dining room.
I love everything about this dish - not least its glorious summer colors, the contrasting texture between the pillowly richness of the lobster risotto and the crunch of the chips, the hide and seek of citrus and edible florals. For all its OMG satisfactions it is a very subtle dish, nowhere more apparent than in the bouquet, which brings with it a faint echo of the sea, taking you all the way back to where its story began.
Our fascination with the concept of immortality - be it a lobster's or our own - will always be with us, but if I’ve learned one thing watching Ryan and his brigade work through every hour of the day, it is what we do with the time we have that matters.
I especially love how we spend time making this dish.
Calling All Dads ....
Speaking of time well spent, nothing is more important than the time we spend with loved ones. But if you ask most hardworking dads what they'd really like to do on Father's Day (as we have) the truth is most of them would like nothing better than to put their feet up and kick back. We get it. If you are joining us to celebrate, Ryan has a classic special on the menu- we’re talking Grilled Rib Eye on the Bone, Lobster Twice Baked Potatoes, and Asparagus with Hollandaise.
We will also be celebrating Father's Day with after-dinner cocktails and sensational Scott Knoll desserts in our new Gallery Bar in Studio Barndiva, whatever your earlier plans, a great way to end the day in style.
Happy Father's Day!