Cafe Society

A Lobster Tale

Page 3 of 3

And speaking of magic, in the midst of all these terrible, lazy atrocities, every now and then the kitchen would put out something fairly good. Not great, but decent enough to imply that, if they wanted to, if they cared just a little, then Del Mar's crew might do all right. The crab-stuffed halibut -- although served with those nasty haricots verts and a stingy, loose béarnaise -- was tender, juicy and cooked just right, with the slightly greasy halibut meat acting as a nice complement to the fresh crab stuffing. While the fries that came with my shrimp po' boy were cold, limp and had obviously made at least two trips through the fryer before landing on my plate, the po' boy filling -- a creamy mix of fresh shrimp and sweet-sour pepper sauce set off with a spicy rémoulade -- was excellent, even if it did immediately soak through the bread and come tumbling out all over the table.

The wasabi mashed potatoes that came with a loin of seared ahi dressed in a restrained ginger miso were some of the best wasabi mashed potatoes I've had during my years of being forced to eat them every time a non-Asian restaurant wants to imbue a plate with a fusiony Tokyo kick. And there was also a bowl of well-handled steamed Manila clams swimming in a simple white wine and garlic broth, served with lots of lemon by a waitress who seemed bent on making sure my table had a good dinner experience despite the fact that plates kept going back half full. But she wasn't enough to stem the rising tide of horror. Nothing short of a time machine and reservations elsewhere could have done that.

So from now on, I think I'll just lay off the lobster. I've been disappointed too often, left wanting and feeling flat-out screwed by too many kitchens that have forgotten there was a time when a lobster was something special, something rare, something to be respected by a cook and savored by a diner.

At Del Mar, those days are long gone.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan