Johnny Lobster (CLOSED)
Time Out says
Feast on the king of crustaceans – at a price you can afford
Along with Champagne, caviar and piles of glittering cocaine, here in Australia, lobster is a bit of a caricature of the high life. And not without cause – it’s really freaking expensive. Then we heard a newly opened joint in Crows Nest was serving it up without the hefty price tag. This we had to see.
The king of crustaceans still costs $30 at Johnny Lobster, located on buzzy Willoughby Road. So don't throw your dollar bills in the air with glee just yet. But it will cost upwards of double that amount most anywhere else, so this is a great deal – especially considering it's sustainably caught. Rather than serving it straight up with butter or covered in a cloying cream sauce, they spice it up with chermoula paste, that north African blend of cumin, lemon, garlic and herbs. The spicy rub seems to diminish the flavour of the sweet flesh, but the salad on which it sits ¬– a concoction of lentils, cracked wheat, pine nuts, parsley and yoghurt – is a happy surprise: all crunchy, zingy and fresh. Next time, we'll ask for the chermoula on the side so we can dip into it at will.
The lobster may be their big sell, so it's a bit odd that the salads are what we ended up liking most on our visit. The Vietnamese-style, finely sliced red cabbage tossed with fried noodles, shaved carrots, bean sprouts and currants arrives with the soft shell crab. Its texture balances perfectly against the succulent meat – all without overpowering its delicate flavour.
The lobster roll is done up Maine style, meaning the meat is mixed with mayo and stuffed into a hotdog roll. Here they jazz it up with little cubes of cooked potato, corn kernels and dill. The toasted roll is seriously buttery, which is no bad thing, but we’d like to see the lobster meat cooked a little less – it needs to be more tender and less chewy. (Mayonnaise can only disguise so much.) The pleasingly spicy fried chicken roll, meanwhile, gets amped up with dried coriander and a heap of properly crispy slaw.
For drinks, the $10 “booze+juice” options showcase freshly pressed fruit juice spiked with either whiskey, gin or vodka. They're fresh and fruity, but... not all that boozy. Go for a beer or wine off the reasonably priced drinks list instead if you need something stronger.
This place frames itself like it’s a fish and chip shop (the interior is all primary colours and playful fonts) but we see it more like a fast food joint offering fresh fast food. The salads are texturally delightful, the drinks are clean, and the lobster is affordable, if a bit lily gilded at times. We'll happily give them some time to get down with technique; for now we're happy to skip the Ivy Pool Club and cash out in Crows Nest instead.