Lobster Society: Fresh, Affordable Lobster Rolls in Beirut
In the past two years, we’ve witnessed the lobster roll surfacing on select menus in Beirut. A quintessentially New England sandwich featuring butter-soaked lobster chunks inside a top-parted bun, the lobster roll has become somewhat of a trendy delicacy in the city’s food scene. Given the fact that it’s (a) seafood, (b) imported, and (c) pricey, only a handful of restaurants boast it, and not all of them serve it fresh.
|The lobster roll at newly-opened Lobster Society|
It was only a matter of time before a lobster bar opened up, and where but in cutthroat Mar Mikhael, the best waters for testing ambitious ideas. Lobster Society has washed up where L’Humeur du Chef once floated, in a narrow side street perpendicular to the main drag (make a left after Classic Burger Joint and Subway, and it’s on your immediate right).
The space houses a communal dining table vast enough to seat over a dozen diners. Along two of the walls, mismatching barstools can accommodate up to an additional dozen. An open kitchen, wine closet, and refrigerated dessert display round out the rectangular room.
|The communal dining table|
The idea is that a lobster roll isn’t trivial enough to be relegated to a street food kiosk. By the same token, given that the menu is an ostensible ode to the crustacean, complemented only by its cousins the softshell crab and shrimp, a full-fledged restaurant would have been excessive, translating to overhead costs and grandiose décor.
Instead, the owners of Lobster Society wanted to keep it casual, affordable, and genuine. The menu reads rather simply, with four types of rolls (lobster, softshell crab, shrimp, and veggie), three types of salad (lobster, shrimp, and veggies…starting to see a pattern, eh?), and six palate pleasers, including bisque, fries, shrimp pops, lobster pops, romaine wedges, and vegetable ceviche.
|Lobster Society's menu|
Lobster à la plancha, aka grilled fresh lobster with fries and salad, will be phased in after soft opening, once the aquarium's been installed.
The lobster roll (29,000 LL with fries and a side salad) is exceptionally fresh and well-balanced, stuffing butter-slathered, lemon-kissed lobster inside a homemade brioche bun. (Other bread options include wholemeal with oats and sesame seeds, as well as gluten-free.)
|Lobster roll platter (29,000 LL)|
Everything about it is right, from the portion size to the balance of flavors, which you would expect, especially when Michelin-starred Maxime Le Van is weighing in as consulting chef.
|Michelin-starred Maxime Le Van is consulting chef at Lobster Society|
If you want to nix the bun, try the lobster salad (35,000 LL), a mélange of lettuce, broccoli, shaved cauliflower, basil, radish, fennel, pine nuts and orange wedges in a refreshing orange-mustard dressing.
The shrimp pops are what Lebanese tend to recognize as “dynamite shrimp,” battered and fried balls marrying beautifully with a spicy mayo sauce. But why pay 23,000 LL/USD 15 for them frozen then fried at P.F. Chang’s when Lobster Society serves them freshly battered for nearly half the price (12,000 LL/USD 8)?
The romaine wedges can be easily overlooked, but they are perhaps the unexpected star of the side snacks. A trio of crunchy lettuce wands come drizzled in a semi-sweet beetroot sauce, topped with pistachio, dill, laban and olive oil. They’re convenient to eat, the perfect finger-food salad when the fork and knife seem unwarranted.
|Romaine wedges with beetroot sauce, pistachio, dill, laban and olive oil|
I don’t know about you, but shellfish necessitate a sweet something to cleanse the palate. Lobster Society offers fresh-baked pastries (10,000 LL apiece) from Des Choux et Des Idées in Achrafieh’s Abdel Wahab district. Expect French novelties like religieuse and tarte aux amandes from visionary chef Samer Kobeissi.
|Religieuse by Pastry Chef Samer Kobeissi of Des Choux et Des Idées|
The name Lobster Society accurately captures what this eatery sets out do: unite people in communion around a shared love for the namesake marine crustacean. Best part? They’re by far the most affordable in town!