- by Macrae Schaffler, Wednesday, July 18th, 2007
When you enter the front door of Lobster King Seafood Restaurant at 11:30 on a weekend morning, you’re greeted by a noisy, bustling dining room full of munching guests and busy waiters filling up water glasses, dropping off pots of tea, and pushing around carts of dim sum - small plates of Chinese dumplings made in-house by a team of impossibly fast-working men in a steam-filled kitchen
Lobster King has been open for about one year, except for a period of a few months when the restaurant closed for remodeling, and then actually completed the remodeling project and reopened its doors (unlike most restaurants who never recover from closing under the auspices of remodeling efforts). The clientele at Lobster King appears to be comprised of an even combination of Asian families from the neighborhood who have long been familiar with the store next door, Viet Hoa, and new clients who have discovered the small, unassuming space by accident or word of mouth.
The doors open at 9:30 am on weekends, but in my experience it has paid off to be patient and wait until about 11:00 or 11:30, so that you may be presented with a greater variety of dishes when the carts come around. During my most recent visit, the first cart to visit our table was filled with steamed dumplings. My dining companions and I started with shrimp and pork shumai, and shrimp and watercress dumplings. Both were delicious. The shrimp and pork shumai were seasoned very delicately and steamed until the pork was cooked through- a little tough but with nice, clean flavors of pork, shrimp, and scallions. The shrimp and watercress dumplings were triangular in shape, as opposed to the round columns of the shumai, and were tenderer. The watercress was brightly evident in the dumplings, and the shrimp was not overcooked, but tender and fresh tasting.
The next cart to come around featured bacon-wrapped battered and deep-fried shrimp as well as eggplant stuffed with a fried cake of seafood. The bacon-wrapped shrimp were very tasty- a little tough but with wonderful, smoky bacon flavor and a crunchy crust from the deep-frying. The spear of eggplant was creamy and smoky, stuffed in its center with the crunchy cake of fried seafood and served in a shallow pool of creamy but light garlic sauce.
Next, we tried the steamed pork buns. These are a personal favorite, probably because I am a born Memphian and barbecue is so familiar to me. The steamed pork buns are soft, white, bread-like dumplings filled with pork that has been doused with a Chinese version of barbecue sauce- much sweeter than we are used to in Memphis, but still with a smoky bite. The last item we sampled at Lobster King was the Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce. I am a big fan of broccoli in just about any form, as long as it is not overcooked and mushy. The Chinese broccoli was steamed perfectly, plenty of crunch still left in its stalks, then quickly stir fried and topped with oyster sauce, a thick, tangy sauce that is reminiscent of A-1, but not quite as powerful.
The service at Lobster King is good, in that we never waited for anything and the servers were always able to tell me what was in each dish. However, there is a language barrier, and you may meet with some frustration when asking more specific questions than, “What is in that?” The ambience is fine; the small, clean space is tastefully decorated with bamboo and pictures of European cafes. Most of the ambience during dim sum hours is created by the dance of waiters with various carts and trays of food. You can order dim sum at any hour the restaurant is open, however the carts are wheeled around the restaurant on Saturdays and Sundays during lunch only. If you are inclined to consume alcohol during your meal at Lobster King, you should come prepared with your own bottle, as the restaurant serves no alcohol. Your waiter will, however, happily chill your bottle until you are ready for it, and then open and pour your libation once you ask for as much.
I have eaten at Lobster King for dinner as well, and I can recommend the cranberry shrimp and the lobster for two with ginger scallion sauce (a deal at $19.99). Lobster King also offers all of your favorite familiar Chinese dishes, such as General Tso’s chicken, egg drop soup, and fried egg rolls. Lobster King is located at 32 North Cleveland between Madison and Poplar in midtown. Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, Fridays and Saturdays, 9:30 am to 11:30 pm, and Sunday, 9:30 am to 10:00 pm
Macrae Schaffler writes the food blog Edible Therapy.