But unlike New England, where blue collar really does still reign except for in specific places (see: Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard), a lobster roll in Montauk, while delicious, will set you back an astounding eighteen bucks. That's right. Eighteen dollars for a hot dog bun with mayo and lobster. This is even more ridiculous given the fact that last year's lobster bounty was overabundant, sending lobster rates down nationwide. In my hometown, our local grocery store sold summer soft-shell lobsters for $2.99 per pound. A lobster roll weighs in at about a quarter of that.
Of The Lobster Roll Restaurant, known by locals as Lunch because of the large sign out front, I will say this: the roll is good. The elements are mostly there (the crunch of celery, the ample but not heavy-handed application of mayonnaise, the hearty-but-not-over-chopped presence of tail and knuckle and claw, with the noted exception of the buttery bun. My bun, while traditional in style--supermarket-bought hot dog variety--was neither grilled nor slathered with warm butter. For eighteen bucks, they should have offered me a stick to go. Accompanying French fries were wan and once-frozen crinkle cut atrocities. Don't these people know that matchstick is protocol?
I also made a trip to Gosman's, sort of the Disney World of Montauk, where I drank a bad mojito (made with too much Rose's lime juice) and sat out on the water and munched on Blue Points. Blue Point oysters are native to Long Island and were impressive in their own right, much more than the baked clam (which was a Cherrystone, or Quahog, a bit more than I'd bargained for in the chewy department) and the crunchless crab cake (which I'm pretty sure featured Maryland--and not Long Island--crab). Go for the oysters and the oysters alone.
Farther into Amagansett, though, you might find one place worth your mighty dollar. La Fondita sells convincingly good tacos for a small price. They also sell traditional Mexican drinks like watermelon juice and horchata. My watermelon juice could have benefitted from the tart presence of lime, but I will let it slide. La Fondita hawks all different kinds of tacos, but I ordered soft-shell crab ('tis the season) and carne asada (always a good representation of a taco joint's abilities). Limes and various salsas are available in a corner near the pick up station. I brought to my table all shades and varieties of red and green with the exception of habanero, too spicy for this gringa. Tacos arrive open-faced on corn tortillas with a variety of accoutrement. Soft-shell came with mayonnaise and cabbage slaw, while carne asada was graced with cilantro and chopped onions. I could have eaten twenty of these suckers had my diet provided for it.
Still, I was glad for my return to the mainland and its less expensive and hard-to-reach sweet eats. On Wednesday, that meant oysters and scallops at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Oysters here are still plentiful and inexpensive enough, coming in at just under two bucks apiece, depending on the variety. We ate our way through two dozen of the smaller ones, a mix of both east and west coast. I suggest finding a friendly bartender who will see you through three hours of your evening, and relying on his oyster-y expertise. We did. Of course, oysters aren't the best food for sopping up alcohol, so for that, we turned to a big plate of McDonald's-type French fries and a scallop pan-roast that was a little too goopy for my taste. Certainly Grand Central's lobster is more fiscally approachable than the lobsters of Montauk and that will be the road I head down the next time I find myself waiting for a commuter train.
Yesterday, two friends and I took an adventure to the new Hester Street Fair on the Lower East Side, where we shmoozed with banh mi from An Choi NYC (pork meatballs as well as the rest of the traditional toppings) a chili kimchi dog made with sausage from Williamsburg's Meat Hook, fresh lemonade from Too Good Traders, maple-bacon-cream cheese macarons from Macaron Parlour, and pineapple-mint popsicles from La Newyorkina. Vendors change from Saturday to Sunday and I'm excited to go back some weekend for Luke's Lobster Rolls, meatballs from Meatball Shop, and other tasties. It was a good way to spend an admittedly hot afternoon and it cost nearly nothing for all our treats.
Would that it were all the damage I could do in one day, but evening found us at Kanoyama, one of the most astoundingly awesome sushi places I've found in recent days. For the good stuff, you will pay the price, and some day, when I'm rich and famous, I will sit at the bar and order omakase, but for now, I can live with an a la carte lifestyle, especially if it includes Japanese baby red snapper. Why? Because this snapper, thin-sliced, raw, and skin on, comes with a tuille of fish carcass that our server generously offered to deep fry after we had eaten our meat. First, the fish was impeccable: clean, redolent of a fine ocean, and salty in a splash of ponzu. But the bones, which I have only had once before, were battered (along with head and eyeballs) and fried and served to us with salty green tea powder. It was like the best, crunchiest potato chip you've ever had and not at all gross, if that's what you're thinking. Impressive, too, was a light and peanuty watercress salad, a thin slice of duck breast rolled and served warm, a pan-fried pork gyoza with more ponzu, a roll of spicy tuna and cucumber, an eel roll with cucumber instead of rice as the binder. Hemlock oysters, hailing from Connecticut and arriving with their own version of ponzu and scallions, were as fresh as any others I had in the past few weeks. But the snapper was its own delight and I would return just for it and the other sashimi that I was too poor to try. Next time. Next time.
For dessert, we disappointed ourselves with cupcakes from ChickaLicious, which had turned soggy and sticky in the June heat wave. Our s'more stuck to our hands and faces and the carrot cake cupcake wasn't tart enough on top for my liking. I'm told that this was one poor performance and that I owe it to myself to return on a cooler evening, when the cupcakes are showing better. We'll see if that's in the cards.
The Lobster Roll Restaurant
1980 Montauk Highway
Amagansett, NY 11930
500 West Lake Drive
Montauk, NY 11954
74 Montauk Highway
Amagansett, NY 11930
Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Grand Central Terminal
15 Vanderbilt Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Hester Street Fair
Saturdays and Sundays, 10am to 6pm
Hester and Essex Streets
New York, NY 10002
175 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
ChickaLicious Dessert Bar
203 East 10th Street
New York, NY 10003