Roll in the lobsters

Lobster rolls - lobster meat in a bun - are catching on here and are an affordable way to indulge in the crustacean

The Clifford Pier. -- PHOTO: THE CLIFFORD PIER
The Clifford Pier. -- PHOTO: THE CLIFFORD PIER
The Market Grill. -- PHOTO: THE MARKET GRILL
The Market Grill. -- PHOTO: THE MARKET GRILL
Pince & Pints Restaurant & Bar. -- PHOTO: PINCE & PINTS RESTAURANT AND BAR
Pince & Pints Restaurant & Bar. -- PHOTO: PINCE & PINTS RESTAURANT AND BAR
Platypus Lobster Shack’s owner Nicholas Lin says he sells about 120 lobster rolls on Thursdays and Fridays on average. -- PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Platypus Lobster Shack’s owner Nicholas Lin says he sells about 120 lobster rolls on Thursdays and Fridays on average. -- PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Dancing Crab. -- PHOTO: TUNG LOK
Dancing Crab. -- PHOTO: TUNG LOK
Boston Seafood Shack. -- PHOTO: BOSTON SEAFOOD SHACK
Boston Seafood Shack. -- PHOTO: BOSTON SEAFOOD SHACK
The Cajun Kings. -- PHOTO: MELVIN CHEN
The Cajun Kings. -- PHOTO: MELVIN CHEN
Mr Frederick Yap, 27, managing director of Pince & Pints, says his restaurant serves sustainable lobsters from the United States. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Mr Frederick Yap, 27, managing director of Pince & Pints, says his restaurant serves sustainable lobsters from the United States. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Move over, crab and prawn. The hottest crustacean in town is the fancy lobster, which is popping up in restaurants in the form of lobster rolls.

In the past four months, more casual eateries and seafood restaurants have put them on their menus.

These include The Clifford Pier, Dancing Crab at The Grandstand in Turf Club Road and The Cajun Kings in Jalan Riang, to name a few.

There is even a restaurant which sells only lobsters - Pince & Pints Restaurant & Bar, which opened two weeks ago in Duxton Road.

It serves just three dishes - lobster rolls, steamed or grilled live whole lobsters, and lobsters cooked like chilli crab. All the dishes are priced at $48.

Another restaurant, Platypus Lobster Shack at China Square, has only lobster rolls as its main dinner offering, together with small appetisers.

Said to have originated in New England in the United States, the lobster roll is made up of chopped lobster meat stuffed into a warm hot dog bun and served with melted butter and mayonnaise.

Lobsters have always been considered luxury food, especially in Singapore.

Popular seafood restaurants such as Long Beach Seafood Restaurant and No Signboard Seafood charge up to $280 for a 1kg Australian lobster, and up to $138 for a 1kg local lobster.

And you might be surprised to find that lobster rolls here cost less than $50.

Life! found eight places in Singapore selling the traditional sandwich, with prices ranging from $14 to $48. Lobster rolls in the US cost between US$10 (S$12) and US$30, depending on size.

Most of the restaurants stuff about 150g of lobster meat in their rolls. An American lobster weighing about 600g can typically yield 160 to 175g of meat.

Luke's Oyster Bar & Chop House in Gemmill Lane is believed to be the first restaurant to introduce lobster rolls here when it opened in 2011.

They are priced at $45 and contain 200g of lobster meat.

Most of the restaurants Life! interviewed use American lobsters, known as Homarus americanus. They are imported from Boston, Maine and Canada.

American lobsters are said to be generally cheaper than Australian, European and Asian ones.

According to Mr Tan Ken Loon, 39, owner of seafood restaurant The Naked Finn in Gillman Barracks, the price of an American lobster is about $36 to $42 a kg.

The price of a spiny lobster from Australia can go up to $138 a kg and one from Asia can go up to $95 a kg, depending on the season.

Seafood restaurant owners say American lobsters are cheaper because of strict regulation of lobster fishing in the US.

Lobsters cannot be caught during the mating season, which means stocks are constantly replenished and the supply is consistent.

Mr Frederick Yap, 27, managing director of Pince & Pints, says: "Sustainable practices in the United States ensure a more constant supply of American lobsters in the industry in the long run."

Escalating prices of spiny lobsters due to high demand from China and Hong Kong have also resulted in more restaurants turning to American lobsters, says The Naked Finn's Mr Tan, whose restaurant serves grilled American, Mozambique and European lobsters.

Importing and supplying his own lobsters has allowed Mr Yap to sell his lobster dishes at more reasonable prices.

He spent an estimated $40,000 to build a lobster holding facility, which has two tanks of filtered seawater, a customised chiller that can cool water down to 7 deg C, biological filters and more.

He supplies lobsters to a few restaurants, including The Naked Finn and Tanjong Beach Club.

The sandwich may just as well spell the next big, albeit pricier-than-usual, food craze, as many places report brisk sales of their rolls.

Mr Nicholas Lin, 29, owner of Platypus Lobster Shack, says he sells about 120 lobster rolls on Thursdays and Fridays on average, his two busiest nights of the week, while The Cajun Kings sells out the 15 lobster rolls that it offers on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Mr Lin says he wants to make lobster rolls more accessible to diners.

He lived in New York for eight years and says: "Lobster rolls in New York are so cheap you can eat one almost every day."

His lobster roll, which contains about 90g of fresh lobster meat, costs $19.

"My ultimate philosophy is to make people happy. People should be able to afford these things and I want my restaurant to be a place where people can come on any casual night out, not just for a special occasion."

At dinnertime every day, there is a 21/2-hour wait at Pince & Pints for a table as it does not take reservations. The lobster roll is its bestseller.

Diners are taking to lobster rolls.

Sales manager James Lim, 48, who ordered a lobster roll from The Clifford Pier, says: "I never knew what a lobster roll was prior to this. At $29, this was reasonable for the quantity of lobster meat in it."

American Greg Bark, 47, an insurance underwriter who dined at Pince & Pints last week, says prices of lobster rolls in Singapore are still higher than in the US because they are unique here.

"There are many lobster places in the United States competing with one another, unlike here," he says.

Others, such as student Tricia Koh, 20, are just glad there are affordable alternatives.

"Lobsters are expensive in Singapore and I'm surprised there are places selling lobster rolls for below $20.

"Buying one won't burn a hole in my pocket."

paigelim@sph.com.sg


THE CAJUN KINGS

Where: 15-1 Jalan Riang, Braddell Heights Estate

Open: 4.30 to 10pm (Tuesday to Thursday), 4.30 to 11pm (Friday), 3.30 to 11pm (Saturday), 3.30 to 10pm (Sunday), closed on Monday

Info: Call 6284-4426 or e-mail hello@thecajunkings.sg

This seafood boil restaurant introduced lobster rolls on May 29. They are available only from Friday to Sunday. Instead of using the traditional hot dog bun, boiled and chilled meat chunks from half a 650g lobster are placed on a toasted brioche bun and slathered with mayonnaise and clarified butter.

BOSTON SEAFOOD SHACK

Where: The Star Vista, 1 Vista Exchange Green, 01-16

Open: 11am to 10pm (Monday to Thursday), 11am to 11pm, (Friday and Saturday); 8am to 10pm (Sunday)

Info: Call 6694-3984 or go to www.bostonseafoodshack.com.sg and www.facebook.com/BostonSeafoodShack

At only $14, this casual American seafood diner’s Boston premium lobster roll was the cheapest SundayLife! found among all the other restaurants.

Stuffed with around 100g of lobster meat, it is served with fries and salad on the side.

DANCING CRAB

Where: The Grandstand, 200 Turf Club Road, 01-20/21

Open: 5 to 10.30pm (Tuesday to Sunday), 11.30am to 3pm (Saturday, Sunday and public holiday), closed on Monday

Info: Call 6466-3303

Opened in April this year, this American seafood restaurant’s lobster roll ($23) contains 70g of lobster meat from a whole lobster tail and comes with coleslaw, Cajun fries and sliced pickles.

The restaurant also sells a whole lobster weighing 800g at $76.

The most popular item on the menu is the lobster combo bag ($100), with prawns, mussels, corn on the cob, Italian sausages and baby potatoes.

PLATYPUS LOBSTER SHACK

Where: China Square, 3 Pickering Street, Nankin Row 01-31

Open: 6 to 10pm (Monday to Thursday), 6 to 11pm (Friday to Saturday), closed on Sunday

Info: Call 6438-7961 or e-mail eat@platypuskitchen.com

Be spoilt for choice at this lobster shack, which serves nine kinds of lobster rolls – The Traditional, The Modern, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Smoked Paprika, Spicy Diablo, Spicy Roasted Garlic, Red Miso & Sesame Uni Roll, and Lemon & Piquant Garlic.

A lobster roll stuffed with 90g of lobster meat goes for $19, while one with 135g goes for $29.

You can order a set, which comes with truffle crisps and a side salad, for $23 or $33.

PINCE & PINTS RESTAURANT & BAR

Where: 32/33 Duxton Road

Open: 5 to 11pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday, last order at 10.15pm

Info: Call 6225-7558 or go to www.facebook.com/pinceandpints

The lobster roll ($48) is a bestseller at this lobster-only restaurant. The roll is stuffed with about 160g of lobster meat and is served with mesclun salad and shoestring fries.

THE MARKET GRILL

Where: 208 Telok Ayer Street

Open: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6 to 10pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday

Info: Call 6221-3323

The Market Grill’s lobster roll ($45) is stuffed with meat from a 500g lobster and is served with fries and a small salad. The restaurant introduced a new special this month called the Lobster Royale ($22) – a lobster bisque egg pudding.

THE CLIFFORD PIER

Where: The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, 80 Collyer Quay,

Open: 6.30 to 10.30am, 11.30am to 2.30pm, 3.30 to 5.30pm, 6.30pm to midnight (weekday); 6.30 to 11.30am, 12.30 to 5.30pm, 6.30pm to 1am (weekend)

Info: Call 6597-5266

Its Pier Lobster Roll ($29) features 150g of butter-poached lobster meat on a toasted bun with light mayonnaise and chives, alongside French fries and a salad.

The restaurant also sells wok-fried lobster with ginger and scallion ($58).

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