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Restaurants

Rock Lobster Food Co.

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Profiled on December 17, 2012 / review policy

rock lobster torontoRock Lobster Food Co. opened up their first proper restaurant on Ossington Ave. just over two weeks ago, and their opening night line-up was just a hint of things to come. Even now, the no-reservation spot is packed to the gills nightly, building on the buzz of the original pop-up restaurant concept from chef Matt Dean Petit, as well as the success of other pop-ups turned restaurants such as La Carnita. "We're all together in the same sort of family," Petit says of La Carnita's Andrew Richmond.

rock lobster torontoRock Lobster Food Co. has taken over the former Watusi space, and kept on some of the original ownership as partners. Staying true to its name, and its TUM-favorite food items, the restaurant sports a concise lobster-focused menu that takes lobster off of its white-tablecloth and silver platter pedigree, and puts it into such high-meets-low dishes as lobster poutine ($13). The prices also reflect this, with most items ringing in under $15, unless you choose to opt for one of the towers (two or three tier platters) or the lobster supper ($39). Petit also offers a raw bar which includes oysters from Oyster Boy, and the lobster is sourced from Nova Scotian fishermen, and when it's fishing season--as it is now--your lobster may have been in the ocean just hours before.

rock lobster torontoPetit has re-imagined Watusi's old look as rustic wood Canadiana atmosphere of his re-imagining is definitely evocative--and Petit designed it himself. The wood tables were custom-made, the vintage red-and-white mural painted by his father, and the shipping crates bought in bulk from a seafood restaurant's going-out-of-business sale, which have been puzzle-pieced together to create a back wall, were his idea--"I knew if I was going to be here 10 hours a day, I better like it." He also commissioned artist Mike Spazz to create a trio of paintings. Ergo, a stamp, a mountie, and the Canadian flag, as per Petit's specific instructions. There's also a semi-private dining alcove dubbed the Anchor Room which somewhat holds a 10-seat table.

rock lobster torontoYou'll find draught beers like Guiness as well as Vineland Estates wine on tap (just $1 per ounce). Petit tells me they're the first Canadian restaurant to pick up the wine on tap account, and the McEwan group of restaurants are close on his heels. The cocktail program comes courtesy of Josh Lindley (of Campagnolo) and for the most part omits any nods to lobster--look for the festive Serpent's Fang ($10) which marries Bulleit bourbon, Dujardin's brandy, baked apple bitters, and apple tincture.

rock lobster torontoHowever, Petit's own contribution is the Rock Lobster Caesar ($12) which sees Ketel One vodka, tabasco sauce, worcestshire sauce, steak spice and Clamato tossed into a large glass mug, and garnished with a lobster tail. As with any Caesar, it's hearty and well-spiced (although you could probably request a touch more Tabasco), and the addition of a large celery stalk and a meaty lobster tail make for a fitting drink to take the edge off while you wait for a table.

rock lobster torontoNext up is what Petit is perhaps best known for: the Rock Lobster roll ($14). He aims for complete authenticity, serving up chunks of fresh-cooked lobster tossed in mayo on a soft top-loader bun. The bread's not fancy, but Petit tells me lobster rolls aren't meant to come in brioches, but just good ol' fashioned soft bread. One bite proves his point--a more flavourful bread would compete with the taste of the lobster. It comes paired with hand-made Yukon chips (which are a close competitor for Miss Vickie's), and a slice of McClure's dill pickle (which apparently has a cult following).

rock lobster torontoThe "Crows Nest" seafood tower ($39) is two seafood platters--tiered for easy access, and more than suitable for sharing. The lower is seafood on ice, such as oysters and shrimps (paired with a red wine sauce, lemon wedges and truly tangy house-made seafood sauce), while the upper is reserved for crab legs.

If seafood is not your thing, you'll also find meaty offerings like the surf 'n' turf steak tartare ($12) and flank steak with fried duck egg ($14) on the menu.

Following from their success at TUM, Petit says "People know who we are and we've already built a sort of base--now it's ours to lose." No worries there.

Photos by Brian Chambers

Discussion

21 Comments

Jose / December 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm
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That lobster roll looks amazing.

I wonder if its as good as it looks. I've always wanted to find a place that serves good Lobster Rolls like from PEI or Boston.
Jimmy / December 17, 2012 at 01:47 pm
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It's not on par with Boston lobster rolls - a little too small really. I'd dig it a lot more if the portion was generous.
Neda T. / December 17, 2012 at 01:55 pm
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I was there Saturday night and had a great experience. The Lobster roll was great, as was the Lobster Mac & Cheese. We also had Oysters to start, and of course the selection was great. I also really enjoyed the Vineland Estates wine on tap, I ordered my wine with a bit of hesitation, but I was pleasantly surprised. There is a little bit of kink in the service, but I am sure that it will improve
A thought / December 17, 2012 at 04:53 pm
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I hope the lobster roll is bigger than what they serve at TUM... cause if its the same portion $14 seems steeeeep
Mikey / December 17, 2012 at 06:29 pm
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Have eaten at Boston's Neptune Oyster Bar (Chowhound's best Lobster Roll in Boston, though it is unconventionally warm and with butter instead of cold and with mayo).

Portion was larger than in picture, same plain-Jane soft white bread but considerably steeper in price - $25 a piece but with a HUGE portion of fries (to keep people from complaining, presumably).
asdf / December 17, 2012 at 09:20 pm
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I ate a Rock Lobster roll at the Tragically Hip's show last summer and yes, they made me wait for my $8 snack, it was worth it!

pz / December 17, 2012 at 10:46 pm
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Their lobster rolls are legit! Nice guys too...
Lindsay / December 18, 2012 at 01:26 am
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As a Nova Scotian, I'm always reluctant to eat lobster so far from home. Knowing they source the lobster I grew up eating (aka, the best lobster in the world) makes me actually very interested in trying out this place. Thanks for the review!
Aaron / December 26, 2012 at 12:39 pm
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I was massively excited to try this place out as I'm a seafood fanatic.

The service was great and our server was fantastic, but the food itself was a disaster.

Across the board, the lobster was spongy and dry. If lobster is your speciality, you'd think they'd source it properly. The flavour combinations were all off too, for myself and my dining partner, and the portions were way too small for the price.

I absolutely do not recommend this place. Avoid it.
L / January 14, 2013 at 05:04 pm
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My experience was similar to Aaron's- great service but, aside from the lobster roll which was ok, the food was horrible:

1. Frozen and watery crab legs (GROSS!)
2. Oysters full of shell fragments
3. A few of our shrimp hadn't been cleaned: forgivable,normally, but when everything else is mediocre it's an amateur mistake that is reflected through the menu.
4. I think there was lobster meat in my mac and cheese but all we could taste/see was overcooked pasta in a bland "cheese" sauce
4. The bisque was the worst of the lot- it was as though it was once an pretty good, albeit bland, soup that had been watered down by a chef that needed to get as many portions out of one pot as possible. It's nice to be a busy hot-spot, but it shouldn't be at the expense of quality.

I'm all for supporting new, local restaurants but I'll never go back.

Stop cutting corners, buy FRESH seafood, hire a proper chef and charge a bit more- people will pay for great food!
JA / January 21, 2013 at 11:33 am
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Also had a very disappointing experience at Rock Lobster this weekend. Everything we ordered was bland, did not taste fresh - overall very underwhelming. The lobster poutine tasted like it had absolutely no lobster in it. The best part of the meal was the chips.

And I woke up 5 hours after eating it with extreme nausea!
SL / February 7, 2013 at 01:22 pm
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I have been to Rock Lobster twice now and keep wanting to go back. I often awake in the middle of the night craving their Lobster Poutine. The Lobster rolls are well priced and yummy. The snow crab is great although it could do without the seasoning. Perhaps this was a supper bowl thing. The Lobster dinner is also great however the creamed spinach is not fab Service is good and the atmosphere is perfect for a east coast touch. I'd have to say it's exactly what Toronto needed, and yes the pickles are amazing!
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Daniel / May 2, 2013 at 11:34 am
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Sorry to say but something seems to have gone wrong at this place, the food was great to begin with but the last time I was in the lobster was just downright awful, I'd have been better off at Red Lobster. To make matters worse the prices have been jacked.

What really blows though is seeing the neglected formerly great Shanghai Cowgirl being converted into a second location far too close to the first one and far too soon given that they clearly haven't figured out a winning formula. As a result, both are surely doomed.
Demerei / May 9, 2013 at 03:07 pm
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I was at Rock Lobster over the weekend and I found it very unimpressive. I had the lobster roll on a pathetic hotdog bun and here was more mayo than lobster in it. I couldn't even taste the lobster. The chips were over cooked and verging on black. I have eaten great lobster rolls on the East Coast, most notably is Neptune's in Boston but my experience at Rock Lobster paled in comparison. Still waiting for a good East Coast lobster roll.
Jasmine / June 2, 2013 at 03:05 pm
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I have never written a review before, as I just couldn't be bothered and have never cared enough to before. Until I came across this place. I feel compelled to inform others of my horrible experience!

To start, we ordered drinks first as per usual. The server came back to take our food order, which was shrimp as a starter, the lobster roll as entree. The entrees came first, our server mentioning that the kitchen was "so busy"- as an excuse for the switch-up, but it was not busy in the restaurant. We ate the entree, waited a while before the shrimp starter came (second), all the while we did not yet get our drinks!! In between the entree and starter, our server came back to apologize for the lack of drinks, even though we were seated at a table right next to the bar. The drinks in question were two glasses of beer- how complicated can that be?
Our two glasses of beer arrived just as we were finishing the shrimp.

In terms of our food: The shrimp was ok- and came with a mediocre "cocktail sauce"- a mixture of ketchup and horse radish. The lobster roll- which is their signature dish, is too small to be considered an entree! It comes with a pickle, and a side of potato "chips" which were so greasy and burnt we could not finish them. The lobster roll itself was really bland! I do not understand how this came to be their "signature dish"! Needless to say we were still hungry and un- satisfied so we decided to order the burger with lobster. We assumed the burger would be of decent size, as it comes as an entree with a side of fries, and costs $14. Of course the fries come out first, then burger shortly after. I could not believe how small it was!! $14 bucks and its slightly bigger than a slider WTF!? Oh and, we requested ketchup for the french fries and we were told they did not carry ketchup at the restaurant. Did I mention what the shrimp cocktail sauce is made of? I don't even care much for ketchup myself, but the fries were so salty we needed something to improve the taste- and being told they do not carry ketchup was the icing on the cake for me. As was the $14 slider burger.

While all of this was taking place, another couple was seated close to us. They sat there for a good 20mins before getting up to leave because their server did not come back!

This place is not worthy of a restaurant space, it actually angers me that they can charge that much for such crappy service and more importantly, low quality food.
heidii / June 14, 2013 at 02:05 pm
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Recently tred this restaurantand was disappointed by everything. Lobster roll was barely appetizer size and to say it was bland would be generous. Void of any flavour but salt at the same time left you feeling like you had eaten something too rich. We also order the lobster mac and cheese. After a few bites each we decded it wasn't even edible due to the salt content, which again, other than grease and oil was all you really tasted. The roll came with the side of chips which were burnt and too greasy. But surprisingly were the least salty of all what we ordered. So they were left as well. Side pickle was nice and best part of the meal but an expensive pickle meal. My friends left feeling ill. Sucked back a few tums once home and then made myself something decnt to eat. Won't be going back. Wll hit up Dakota Tavern for their mac and cheese as it is a neighbourhood dish worthy of a return visit.
Jan replying to a comment from Jasmine / September 3, 2013 at 04:41 pm
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Totally agree that the service is apalling. Trying to get a drink while waiting for a seat, painful. Bar staff - male - rude and sadly a staff who ignored people waiting. Food not worthy of the wait, small portions, blah tasting, although i must admit did come quickly. won't be seeing me there again.
Tom / November 21, 2013 at 07:21 pm
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After reading all these god awful reviews, I cannot imagine how the owners of this place have multiple locations. From what I've read they are also opening a new restaurant as well, Boots and Bourbon? I will not take a chance at going here.
Eric / November 26, 2013 at 09:45 am
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These people nearly wasted my Saturday night...don't waste yours! I showed up on Saturday at 7:30pm to put my name on the list for a table for 4. We waited at Boehmer for 45 minutes which I had expected. What I wasn't expecting was to be totally forgotten about. To check on our status I walked back to speak with the hostess. SHE WAS TOTALLY STONED OUT OF HER MIND. Our name was lost and were assured that we would be at the "top of the list." Not having the most confident feeling in the hostess I went to get my friends and returned to the restaurant to wait it out (literally 3 minutes had passed). I asked the same hostess what the status was and her reply was "who are you"?? This absolute retard couldn't remember my name or who I was after a 3 minute time lapse. We left in frustration and had to find a table elsewhere. The food might be good. It might be absolutely fantastic for all I know, but unless you have can deal with stoners with the IQ of a gerbil you'll have to rely on reviews to experience the place. I will never ever go back. There are far too many great options in Toronto.
Robert / March 3, 2014 at 08:46 pm
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Had dinner here this past Friday....absolutely disappointed. My girlfriend had tried to go a few times prior but was always turned off by the crowd and the wait. After eating here my question is why the crowd or the wait?? The food is mediocre at best, I've had better lobster rolls from the pre packaged deli selection at Sobeys...
Wait staff seemed hurried and flustered as well. Our waitress brought me the bill before asking if I wanted dessert?!?
All in all the food was bland and overpriced for what it was. At best, Rock Lobster should be a concession stand inside the food building of the CNE with the same menu at half the price not a sit down restaurant on Ossington.

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