City Paper is not for tourists
The Red Hook Lobster Pound truck’s opening day on Farragut Square was too depressing to ponder for any period of time. Y&H had, like many other bloggers around town, helped to create a monster. The wait for a lobster roll was two hours, perhaps longer.
After reading the opening-day coverage, I was fairly certain of three things:
- I would never have the time to suffer through such a wait.
- The rolls could never live up to the expectations created by waiting so long.
- I’d resent the hell out of losing so much time just to grab lunch.
I had resigned myself to not sampling Red Hook’s products until the lines were more manageable and I’d be in the right frame of mind to fairly consider these rolls. To my surprise, these conditions presented themselves last week when Red Hook made the announcement that it would park its truck on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan, not far from the City Paper‘s offices. I knew this was my chance.
A pair of colleagues and I went to investigate and found the line utterly manageable. In fact, by the time I fetched some cash from the nearest ATM, the two of them were just a few short steps from the order window. I felt as if we had cheated death.
I figured this would be my best chance to sample Red Hook at its peak. The truck had pulled up only minutes before and its lobster and shrimp salads would presumably be freshly prepared. I ordered a lobster roll meal with Cape Cod chips and a Maine Root soda ($18) as well as a shrimp roll ($8). There were two immediate problems: The order taker didn’t ask me if I wanted a Maine- or Connecticut-style lobster roll, and the credit card swipe attached to her iPad was misbehaving. She had to type in a colleague’s card numbers manually, which slowed down the line.
By default, I was served a Maine-style roll, which was fine by me. It would have been my choice anyway. I noticed there were small variations from the recipe posted over at Tasting Table. I conducted a thorough examination of my roll and found no evidence of celery or chives; instead, the knuckle and claw meat was sprinkled with thick slices of scallions, which added small notes of aroma and piquancy.
As for the lobster itself, it was barely dressed in mayo. Red Hook had allowed its star to shine with little stage direction. The meat was slightly chilled and tasted as fresh and clean as if a lobsterman had just pulled a crustacean from the cold Maine waters. Its texture was neither rubbery nor chewy. Instead it was silken; it barely required any work of your teeth, as if the delicate flesh were such a consummate host it wanted to give your molars the day off.
When wrapped inside the crispy and cushy J.J. Nissen split bun, the lobster meat played a wonderful foil — its coolness set off by the roll’s warmth, its sweet flesh a counterbalance to the buttery richness of the bread. In short, I believe I’ve changed my mind: I would wait two hours for this beauty.
(BTW, by the time I tore into the shrimp roll at the office, it had turned tepid and flaccid; it was not in prime condition for review.)
Compared to some earlier reports, Red Hook seems to have improved its operational systems. The line moved quickly.
And what a line it was, although far shorter than the one on opening day.
I’m beginning to recoil from the term, “lobstah.”
Red Hook has good buns.
Consider bringing cash. The iPad credit card system seems rather flaky.
It’s a crowded but hard-working crew in that truck.
As a colleague noted, there are no diet sodas among the options at the dispenser built into the side of the truck.
You can see the entire Red Hook menu here.