“Tail”, get it?
Typically, I avoid the North End like the plague.
Well, perhaps not the plague. Maybe I avoid the North End like the flu, as I do head there occasionally for a less than perfect, but satisfactory cannolo from Modern, a sandwich from Volle Nolle, or for the adorable individual packages of imported Nutella from Salumeria Italiana.
Ok, so maybe I avoid the North End like the common cold, but the point is that the hordes of tourists and the restaurants that get by serving their unknowing patrons lackluster, and often, inauthentic cuisine, prevent me from staying too long. In fact, my favorite places in the North End aren’t even 100% Italian: Taranta is an Italian/Peruvian restaurant (must order: the house made antipasto and the saffron butter brushed grilled trout), and my new favorite and the subject of our long-winded post today, Neptune Oyster, is a seafood restaurant with an emphasis on shellfish.
I have been meaning to try the lobster rolls at Neptune for, I kid you not, four years or so. If you’re from these parts, you know there is a lot of hype surrounding them, and I needed to know if a roll in a sit down restaurant with a $25 price tag really did trump all of those served up at seaside shacks from the Northernmost point of Maine to Cape Cod. So, I clearly took my dad here for Father’s Day out of loving daughterly devotion and not at all out of the need to satisfy my own selfish shellfish affinity…
The tiny spot, with its nautical tiling and window full of fresh oysters, clams, and shrimp, probably only seats forty, three-quarters of them with lobster roll in hand. For one who tries to avoid tourist traps, I may have come to the wrong place. In fact, while waiting to be seated, one family on the street told us they were from Maryland and had tried on two other trips to Boston to get in.
But trap Neptune was not. The restaurant satisfies both CT-style lobster lovers and everyone else by offering its rolls hot with butter or cold with mayo. I told my father that there were rules to our outing: We were to each order a lobster roll. One had to be buttered, one had to be mayoed. We were to split these evenly. We were to eat the buttered one first so as to enjoy it while warm. Again, I stress the daughterly devotion.
Rules and regulations, though, went out the window, because both of us had strong preferences. My dad only had eyes for the cold lobster roll, but I did steal a bite or two and was impressed. Both rolls featured only whole pieces of claw, knuckle, and tail meat which were substantial and weighty, yet not at all chewy. The brioche bun certainly tipped its hat to the traditional hot dog roll and its light sweetness heightened the extreme sweetness of the lobster. This was not, however, a refined experience. Whole pieces of lobster means a whole lotta mess. The soft bun perfectly encased the cold lobster but quickly split when topped with, no saturated by, the buttered lobster, which sent streams of fat down my arms.
Although, “streams of fat” may not sound particularly appetizing, I definitely have to declare the lobster roll with butter the winning sandwich. The sweet butter gave the lobster such depth and richness while allowing what we paid $25 dollars for to shine. I would certainly also order the cold roll again. The coating of mayonnaise was so very light and added a sexy silkiness to the experience. It also gives you the option of forgoing the knife and fork if you simply want to hunker down and eat the lobster roll as it was meant to be eaten.
As for the sides, the roll is served with a heaping pile of fries, which I expected to only be a forgettable requisite but which were instead well-seasoned and nicely browned. I opted for some mixed greens, which were woefully overdressed. I’ve heard great things about other menu offerings and the raw bar, which I would love to try, but as I said, there were rules to this trip.
Will I turn down the humble roll from the Roy Moore Lobster Co. in Rockport from now on? Heck, no! But just as you sometimes feel the need to get the burger from Radius, there’s a time and a place for a good $25 lobster roll.