Burger & Lobster
Nobody thought it would work in New York City, just like they didn’t think it would work in London — and yet, on a Wednesday night at 7pm, there’s an hour wait for tables at the restaurant that has just three items on the menu: burgers, lobsters, and lobster rolls.
They did 1,100 covers that night.
Burger & Lobster is the brainchild of four childhood friends from Moscow who launched the first outpost in London to nearly instant success. One of the owners, Vladimir Borodin, visited more than 300 sites in NYC before settling on the former martial arts studio on West 19th Street and opening in January 2015 to a lukewarm reception. New Yorkers couldn’t believe it was a restaurant, since it had no printed menu; but within a few months, people were herding by the entrance.
Before I continue, I want to disclose that I understand that humanely transporting and killing lobsters is probably not much consolation to the crowd that would like to see the practice eliminated entirely. So, if you are anything like the lady on Twitter who said that my grasshopper tacos story was “sad,” please don’t read any further. If you are an animal lover who feels a little guilty about eating lobster but just can’t stop yourself, please read on.
Burger & Lobster’s chefs and management spent a lot of personal time with scientists, lobstermen and tank builders in Nova Scotia, people who are at the forefront of “lobster technology,” both in holding and cooking techniques. After being caught, the langoustines are stored in holding tanks with seawater, then sold to a broker who holds them in a huge tank that circulates water straight from the ocean. The tank temperature is controlled at an optimal 36 degrees Fahrenheit, which helps maintain oxygen levels in the water.
From there, they travel in a refrigerated tank at the same temperature to Maine, are transferred again to a tank with fresh seawater, and, finally, land in NYC to live in tanks that replicate their natural ocean environment until they are ready to be cooked. They are placed in colder water before cooking, which essentially numbs them, making them literally comatose, then placed in very high heat high pressure commercial steamers that kill them within five seconds and cook them completely incredibly fast — four minutes, where as “home cook” conditions take 12 to 15 minutes.
The result is a delicious lobster roll served with a small salad and fries that definitely hits the spot, and a tasty half-shell served alongside a good old-fashioned cheeseburger.
Yes, the ending is still an unhappy one for the lobster, but people are going to continue to eat seafood and love it, so I’m taking solace in the fact that these crustaceans are kept comfortable right up until the end, which is virtually painless.