We searched apparently in vain around Charlottetown for a green clapboard restaurant building that I remember thinking looked interesting on my last visit a couple of years ago, and finally concluded that this place was it. The first time we stepped up to the door, through a gang of geriatric tourists off a ten-storey cruise ship, we decided not to sit down because the welcome seemed a bit overly raucous. But we came back after having at least one rubber-consistency lobster dish elsewhere. We sensed this place might be different.
And it was. The eight or so tables filled completely around us for lunch with a mix of young Asian tourists and elderly local couples, and the abrasive-sounding server lady seemed gentler and more genuine than the first impression we got.
The lobster was first-class.
There is an impressive array of other seafood on the menu here, and in respect of lobster, it’s a “dinner” comprising the red boiled creature, seafood chowder or mussels, potatoes any style, and a set of instructions for how to dismember a lobster printed on your paper placemat. We shared this $30 item, bumping the cost up to $40 by ordering a 1.5 pound (basic is 1 pound) lobster.
The place is a converted old-fashioned general store, tarted up with three or four dozen old license plates and pictures of dubious celebrities nailed to the walls. Aggressively unpretentious: foodies and snobs keep your heads down.
I’ve probably had lobster a dozen times in my life, maybe more, and only once do I remember it being tender and really tasting of lobster. This includes a couple of times I’ve cooked one myself. That one epiphany was in the PEI community of Summerside at a conference I was speaking at, the lobster served cold in more than adequate quantity. Absolutely delicious dipped in melted butter with lemon, salt, and pepper.
As I say, this time my expected disappointment didn’t materialize. The hot lobster was perfect, the claw meat flaky and tail meat tender. What a wonderful delicate flavour, although there aren’t really that many mouthfuls on a 1.5 pounder. Even the unimpressive alcoholic-fake grape juice Jackson Triggs sauvignon blanc couldn’t erase my delight.
The secret to perfect lobster? “Don’t overcook it” said our waitress. 20 minutes after the boiling water boils again. Sounds like a bit much to me, who boils Dungeness crabs for five minutes max, but you can’t argue with success. There have to be dozens of places in the Canadian maritimes where they cook lobster properly but this is the only one we found.
Food 8.9, service 7.8, ambience… either you like it or you hate it, value 7.4.