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Rabia’s – Boston, Massachusetts

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lobster roll rabias

This was the first lobster roll after completing my book on the subject.  I felt totally lobstered out and figured I needed a good solid break from lobster writing, but a trip to Rabia’s in Boston refreshed and inspired me to get back on the wagon.  After a rather disappointing trip to the Boston Flower Show (I was at the Philly Flower Show the weekend before, so my standards were high) we decided it was time for some linner (lunch-dinner).  I dragged Ken and my pals Mark and Lu to my new favorite spot in the North End, Neptune Oyster, only to find that they were working on a 3 hour wait.  It was the Saturday before St Patricks Day in Boston, so understandable, but not doable if you’re hungry.  So, we headed two doors up to Rabia’s, it looked to be a crowd pleaser, no wait, large seafood and Italian menu and a roomy dining room, not easy to find roomy spaces in the North End.  I really hesitated on ordering this lobster roll.  I hadn’t brought any of my gear, scale and such, and I had Neptune on my mind and felt that anything else was bound to be disappointing.  But, our waiter told me that they cook and pick the lobsters in house.  Impressive, Neptune doesn’t even do that, there isn’t much space in the North End as I mentioned.  So, I had to give it a try.  They had four options, butter, mayo, bisque with mozzarella and one other I can’t remember.  I decided against butter since that is Neptune’s standout and went with the unique lobster bisque and mozzarella option.  The waiter described it as the most “soggy” option, not enticing but I went with it anyway,  In retrospect, I think he must have meant “has the most topping” and used the wrong descriptor.
When it arrived, I was thoroughly impressed by the looks of it.  It was quite large, I didn’t have my scale, so I couldn’t say exactly.  The bun was the texture and flavor of an Italian bread and the shape was more like a sub roll.  The bun had been warmed, but I couldn’t tell if it was grilled, there was no evidence of crispness and I frankly don’t think grilling would have worked here.  The meat was tossed in a thick bisque and sprinkled with what I would call more of a mozzarella garnish than anything, very minimal.  The bisque was thick enough and the bun hearty enough to prove the waiter wrong.  Throughout the eating experience, I experienced no sogginess.  That is quite a feat for any hot lobster roll, they all usually break down on the bottom, spilling the meat out.  The first bite really blew me away.  This lobster meat was incredibly tender and delicious, huge chunks of tail and claw.  I will admit, they need work on their lobster picking skills, I got several inner claw shards.  I felt like I should have been upset about it, but I actually found it strangely impressive because it was direct evidence that they do indeed pick in house.  You don’t find shell shards in frozen meat.  I have always been a believer that a lobster bisque roll should be done far more frequently.  I often order it with my roll to create it on my own, but I have only ever encountered one other and it wasn’t quite my vision.  This was exactly my vision, everything a lobster bisque lobster roll was meant to be.  Tender meat, hearty but light bun and a super flavorful bisque that had the texture to stick to the meat, not soak the bun.
I really had trouble containing my excitement and trying to share my joy with the table without sharing bites.  I wanted this whole thing for myself.  I still can hardly believe that the perfect hot buttered lobster roll (Neptune) is only two doors down from the perfect and most elusive, bisque lobster roll.  I’m certain I will be back to Rabia’s many times for this work of lobster perfection.  I have found in my travels that I am always very skeptical of lobster rolls in very close proximity to wildly popular lobster rolls with long waits.  But, every time, they have thoroughly impressed me.  There is a reason they can stay in business next to such a hot spot.  So, next time you’re too hungry to wait for Neptune (though I do highly recommend you wait at some point) head to Rabia’s and prepare to be wowed that there is no wait for this amazing roll.

http://rabias.com/

Visited March 2014

Rabia's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Ford’s Lobster – Noank, Connecticut

Ford's lobster roll

I felt like I had really reached some inner circle of lobster roll status when some folks who saw my Lobster Gal interview on NBC 30 passed on this tip to me.  I had literally never, ever heard of Ford’s Lobster in Noank, not on any boards, searches, articles, nothing.  As you may know, I’m not really a fan of the popular Connecticut lobster roll spots, also in Noank, Abbott’s and Costello’s, so to hear that there was another lobster roll establishment in Noank for those in the know came as quite a surprise.  Even writing about it now feels a bit like letting the cat out of the bag and sharing some sort of lobster roll state secret.  Much as I would love to keep this spot all to myself and those few in the inner circle, this venue deserves to be known, much more widely.

It’s not easy to find.  Frankly, it wasn’t even easy to find the address on a google search, all lending more to the exciting, clandestine nature of Ford’s.  Once my GPS finally figured things out and led us down a tiny, windy road to the water, there it was.  Nothing more than a quiet lobster sign with the word Ford’s marked that you had arrived.  There is was, down by the water, just two little shacks covered in lobster buoys and a deck overlooking one of the prettiest views with lobster in Connecticut.

The menu is fairly basic, at this BYOB establishment, but they were clearly getting quite creative and much more high-end than a shack with their specials list.  Then I saw it on the menu, the lobster roll I dream about and often put together myself, the lobster bisque option in addition to a hot with butter and a cold with mayo.  We decided to go with one cold and one bisque, it was a warm day, and frankly, Abbots had recently turned me off from the hot version.  I asked and the meat here is indeed fresh picked, not at Ford’s, but at another local facility every morning.  She did say that the lobster was Canadian, not Connecticut lobster.  I respected and thanked her for her thorough honesty on the lobster source, that’s very important info to me and not something every place is willing to part with.  Honestly, ideally, I always prefer local lobster, not Maine, but whatever state we are in when eating the lobster roll.  I think it lends to the authenticity, freshness and it always feels good to be a lobster locavore.  But, I will take fresh picked lobster however I can get it as it is not very common anywhere and less often in Connecticut.

I actually forgot to ask about the previously frozen, fresh picked status before ordering, but once I bit into this one, I knew immediately, that this was not previously frozen.  The fresh, briny, tender flavor was there and if you happen to have just eaten a suspected frozen, then you eat a definitely fresh picked, the difference is obvious.  Ford’s uses large chunks of tail and claw, tender, the cold version is tossed in minimal mayo and has celery chunks, which I could do without and mostly picked out, but I didn’t really mind because the meat was so tasty.  They also seem to mix to order, so I’m sure you could request sans celery.  The bisque version is warm and has the very thick bisque poured on top.  I would really prefer it to be tossed in the bisque.  The large blob on top makes it a bit unwieldy and the bisque doesn’t move into the whole sandwich, equally distributing itself in each bite.  The bun is not your standard top split bun, it’s more of a hearty hot dog bun, somewhat larger and more dense.  The flavor is similar to the standard white bun, but it has a bit more flavor, freshness and I suspect possibly bakery fresh.  The bun is not toasted or grilled.  I happen to like it this way, but I know it’s not for everybody.  They are so nice here though, I suspect they would grill it for you if you asked. The Ford’s lobster roll is certainly among the best in Connecticut, fresh hearty meat served on fresh bread on the ocean, doesn’t get much better.  They also had something curious on the menu called a lobster bomb.  I assumed this just a jumbo lobster roll, but our waitress explained that it was kind of a hollowed out bread bowl, filled with lobster.  Wow, this is definitely something I need to try out.

As it happens and I actually had trouble believing at first, Ford’s is open year round, Wednesday – Saturday.  I say hard to believe, because I’m still not sure where they put people inside, but sure enough on their Facebook page, lots of specials and pictures going on through the winter.  I fully intend to make my way down there this winter and report back.  I’m thinking a hot lobster roll in the winter, on the ocean, would be just heaven.

Weighed in at 6.3 oz. for the bisque and 6.1 oz. for the cold lobster roll.

Ford’s Lobster Facebook Page

Visited September 2012

Ford's Lobster on Urbanspoon