Rock Lobster! 

Ed’s Lobster Bar, 222 Lafayette St, 212-343-3236
Price range: $18-28  Rating: 3 L's

The lobster roll, that rustic Maine favorite, has been inspiring drools since the opening of Pearl Oyster Bar. Along the way, Mary’s Fish Camp, Black Pearl and the Mermaid Inn have made this Down East treat their own… well, not really. They all make it basically the same way — lobster, mayo, celery, and scallions on a top-loaded hotdog bun — which you should be thankful for. Ed’s conforms to the mold, offering few surprises, but lots of pleasure along the way.

The clean whitewashed and beechwood-lined space on Lafayette Street contains a long bar, with only a few actual tables in a skylit back room.  Sit at the bar for the real experience and to chat with the gregarious waitstaff while they pour you something from the obsessively edited beer and wine list.

I went early on a Sunday evening with a friend, when they were serving a truncated menu. I came for the lobster roll, and the near emptiness of a Sunday ensured they’d still have one. Saturday is a different story, when waits can stretch to over an hour for a table for two. We started with a few oysters ($2) from cold coastal waters. They were plump, briny and perfectly fresh, served with biting mignonette and cocktail sauce. Next, we split a Boston Bibb Salad ($7) that was again simple and delicious, lightly and sprightly dressed with fresh herbs and Maytag blue cheese. Likewise, the classic New England Clam Chowder ($6) was an exercise in the elegant simplicity Ed’s space promises. It was completely unlike the glutinous slop that usually passes for New England chowder in this city. It was as thin as chicken soup, redolent in clam flavor, if not in pieces of clam, and laced with fresh chive.

Next up was the main event, the Lobster Roll ($18). Ed is a former cook at Pearl’s, so he should know his LRs. And he does, though it didn’t match the sweet excessiveness of Pearl’s version. His fresh bun, buttered and flame roasted, was perfect, but the lobster salad itself, while delicious, was slightly overcooked, heavy on tail meat (instead of the more tender claw) and slightly overloaded with mayo. It was served with sea-salted fries and amazingly fresh homemade crinkle-cut pickles. All in all, delicious and cheaper than the competition, but there’s room for improvement.

Ed’s Kennebunkport-style unpretentious elegance matches the menu perfectly: grilled fish, lobster of every stripe, and a classic raw bar are by no means revolutionary, but that’s missing the point. It’s about the lobster, that paragon of down-home down-east luxury.

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