Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Red Lobster - Redux

Red Lobster - Redux, As promised, my nephew, Austin, and I had dinner at the Round Rock Red Lobster to try out some of the new menu offerings. We arrived at 6.00 pm on a Sunday. There was a 20 minute wait, which wasn’t bad, because the weather was nice. We sat on a little patio space the restaurant offers for those waiting, and chatted.

I described the lunch menu with my last article; the dinner menu was much the same, with these exceptions. The prices were higher, of course. The new Maine Stays menu items are not sectioned off, but incorporated in the menu as a whole, just look for the little star next to the item for a Maine Stay entrée.

It took about 5 minutes for Lizzie, our server's initial appearance, and another 5 to get our drinks. My nephew asked for a Miller draft. He’s 22 years old and looks quite young so our server carded him like she should (good to see). I had ice water with lemon.

It took me a while to pick out something that intrigued me, Austin made comments to try to hurry me up. He chose my initial selection, and wanting to have a variety of different foods, I was obligated to find something else to eat. Austin chose Maine Stays Chesapeake Shrimp with Crab and I chose the 4 course Wood-Grilled Fresh Tilapia.

I’ve had their clam chowder and know it’s awesome so I decided to try the Creamy Potato Bacon Soup instead. It was very tasty, you could tell that this soup was at least partially handmade and not from a can. The potatoes were chunky and tasted fresh not canned, and the bacon pieces were good sized, tasty and crisp. A little on the salty side, but definitely recommendable to those who just don’t like clams. This was served in a cup not a bowl, so unless you order it differently, don’t expect bunches of it.

When I go to red lobster, I usually get the Fresh Caesar salad so this time I had the Fresh Garden salad with Ranch dressing. It was served in a largish sized bowl and was fresh and crispy.

I chose the Wood-Grilled Fresh Tilapia as my entrée and had some surprises waiting for me. First is when I placed my order, I was not offered my choice of sides; I was told it comes with broccoli. Since I like broccoli, I didn’t protest. The broccoli wasn’t steamed, wasn’t blanched and wasn’t roasted. I’m not sure how they cooked it, but I’m betting it was microwave. There were zero spices involved, no dressing, no salt nothing. It was ok, but a judicious use of nature’s seasoning would have made it a little better. Though being cooked in the manner it was, the broccoli wasn’t tough but wasn’t tender either, it was almost like it wasn’t cooked at all. You couldn’t cut it with a fork that’s for sure. I prefer to blanch my broccoli, it brings the chloroform to the surface and makes it a brilliant green.

Another surprise was the fish. The Tilapia had zero spices as well. This didn’t bother me much because Tilapia has a nice delicate flavor and the hint of wood smoke added the only spice needed. It was slightly over done but not enough to complain about. I had expected a bit more than was provided but again, not enough to complain about. The fish was served next to a bed of mixed white/wild rice, they called it Rice Pilaf but was not according to any recipe I've used.. The rice had a shock of lemon. I’m pretty sure the rice was steamed with water, then fresh lemon was squeezed over it. I did see some capers in there, but they were not the contributing factor to the lemon flavor. I tried just a caper and it wasn’t lemony at all, while most capers provide a sour/salty (almost anchovy type) flavor to food, these were close to tasteless.

That’s it for my entrée dish. Fairly plain and straight forward. I liked the simpleness of the fish but they could have dressed up the broccoli a little and toned the rice down a bit.

Austin ordered the Chesapeake Shrimp with Crab and a Cesar Salad. The Cesar Salad looked better than usual. The cheese was not the usual shredded variety, but nice wide flakes, he said it was crispy and fresh.

He gave me samples of the rest of his dinner so I can report on it firsthand. The Chesapeake Shrimp was very well done. It was grilled on a stick, not on a wood fire, but, I’m pretty sure it was grilled on one of those stove top grills. It was cooked to perfection but no grill lines, char spots, or wood smoke flavor to indicate a wood grill. When grilling shrimp you have to be very careful to cook it fully, but not overcook it. Full cooking is necessary when cooking seafood, but you want shrimp to be plump and juicy. If you aren’t careful, you over grill and your shrimp turns out dry and chewy. This shrimp was just about as perfect as you can get. The crab butter was the real thing too. Real crab in a butter sauce was poured over the skewer. It enhanced but didn’t overpower the shrimp.

The Crispy Red Potatoes were as advertised. Crispy out, mealy inside, they were really good.

His other entrée item was the crab-and-seafood-stuffed shrimp. There was also a sauce over this shrimp too, a lobster beurre blanc which is a reduction sauce of wine vinegar and shallots, cooked with butter and beaten until thick and foamy with lobster folded in. There was a sweetness to the stuffing that was very unusual. Lobster and Crab many times can be sweet, especially Alaskan King Crab. But I don’t think the crab and lobster alone contributed to the sweetness of the stuffing. Austin said that if he had known it would be so sweet he would have tried something else, but it wasn’t enough of a turn-off to prevent him from eating it. Austin doesn’t really like sweet stuff though, so don’t let that prevent you from trying it.

Because his serving of the Rice Pilaf was on the same plate as the shrimp and their sauces, his portion of rice had a more complicated taste. The crab butter and the lobster beurre blanc transformed the rice into something delectable. There was no hint of sweetness in the rice, so I’d say that sweet something was in the stuffing not the sauce.

Then came the desert. I chose the Caramel Cheesecake. I’m a big fan of cheesecake if it’s done right and wanted to see what Red Lobster would do with it. Cheesecake is a dense baked cake with a high cream cheese content. Normally it is sweet, but less sweet than regular cake is. The sweetness for this cheesecake was off the charts. There was a grittiness to it that made me think they had dipped or rolled the slice of cake in sugar before they drizzled the caramel over it. Austin took one bite and that was it for him. I took a few more bites just to be sure I really did experience that sugar taste/feel. If you like your sugar then try it, if not, then I suggest you try a different desert or not get one at all.

In summary, my nephew’s rice was the best thing we had, closely followed by his grilled shrimp and new potatoes; then the creamy potato bacon soup and grilled tilapia. As stated yesterday, there was enough to fill me up at a decent price. I would say it wasn’t bad but not inspired. You could do worse for fifteen bucks each.

Our server got 20%. She was quick and efficient but a little harried. She may have had too many tables. Oh, and the hostess didn’t take my sized into account, we were seated a t a booth that was a tiny bit squeeze, but as there was a waiting list, I really didn’t see much option.

One final word to Red Lobster (If you read this), please bring back your unlimited soup and salad lunch, it was divine and priced perfect!

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