1602 Ocean Avenue (on the Santa Monica Pier)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Born on June 21, I straddle two signs of the zodiac. Sometimes I’m sensitive, nurturing Cancer the Crab who wants nothing more than to stay home alone on a Friday night in pink flannel pajamas, roasting a lemon herb chicken. Sometimes I’m energetic, outgoing Gemini the Twins, gliding from guest to guest in a jersey minidress and 4½” stilettos, entertaining at my own rooftop, poolside
game night cocktail party.
Most of the time I’m just an overly emotional, hyperspazztic homebody with an identity crisis.
My position relative to the “cusp” really depends on which trashy brain candy of a source is prescribing the horoscope. However, as of today, I no longer suffer from a dual personality who has to rely on a daily dose from a psycho – of excuse me, psychic – friend to remind me of who I are. The most reliable authority when it comes to one’s horoscope has, once and for all, officially diagnosed me as Cancer (but not that I have crabs).
Cancer (June 22-July 22): You’d be bored if all were easy. Your stars include delicious contradictions and complications. A Virgo can help you find your way.
Can I really be Cancer if the dates are off by a day? Yes, because newspapers print numerical mistakes all the time. The Times’ horoscope for what they say is Gemini is most certainly not me. “At work, the one seeking your opinion wants approval, and the one seeking approval may want a financial contribution.”
Please. We all know that there is not a single person out there who seeks either my opinion or The Delicious Seal of Approval.
I have to be Cancer. I am Cancer. Confirmed. Because you know The Los Angeles Times is so much the definitive source for all things starry. “Delicious contradictions?” I mean really, they may as well have called me out directly and said “Sarah (June 21): The Delicious Life is full of contradictions.” Yes, yes it is. If the hypocrisy, fickleness, and mental disorders that range from ADD to a mild case of ethnic schizophrenia that are made obvious within every post on this here blog (that would make it “intra-post” as opposed to “inter-post” for those of you who could never figure out the difference) wasn’t enough to make that obvious, let’s make it abundantly clear with lobster.
1. No sooner than immediately after backhandedly bashing Red Lobster as a middle class chain restaurant in which no self-respecting food critic would show his face, I twirl a total 180 on my hypocritical little stiletto heel and crave its Cheddar Bay Biscuits and occasional Hush Puppy.
2. No sooner than immediately after writing about Red Lobster, do I write about Santa Monica’s The Lobster. That’s not really a contradiction, until you take into account that I went to two – not one, but two – lobster places even though…
3. I hate lobster. I didn’t eat lobster in either place.
The point of The Lobster for me was not lobster. Unlike other people who have a curious fascination with the luxury of lobster, I can’t appreciate the indulgence simply for the sake of indulgence, regardless of how something actually tastes. The point, therefore, of The Lobster, is the location. I don’t love the chaos of the area around the Santa Monica pier, crawling with tourists, traffic along Ocean Avenue, the fishy stench of the beach, but as long as I’m protected inside a glass bubble, I enjoy looking out over the Pacific and the tiny lights at night from a distance. Cocktails don’t hurt, either.
From the outside, the Lobster has always looked like a tiny room fronted in white just at the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier. The smallish bar is in this front area, with choice bar-style seating on the small outdoor patio that looks out across at the Pier. Though I love perching myself on a stool at an actual bar, and I could argue that gazing upon row upon row of liquor bottles is a beautiful thing, sitting at the Lobster’s inside bar turns your back to the windows and deprives of the pseudo-spectacular view of the muted madness outside. During the summer high season, The Lobster’s bar is crowded with loitering tourists waiting for a table in the main dining room. It takes a smart strategy of watchful waiting to land one of the very few high cocktail tables against the window.
The size of the bar is deceptive. It doesn’t offer any insight into how huge The Lobster’s main dining room is.
The Lobster’s main dining room is huge.
However, in what seems to be an effort to maximize revenue in a high rent location, The Lobster has packed too many tables to be comfortable in the dining room. Not only does the sheer number of people in the space makes for quite a din, but the tables are so close together that following our hostess from the bar to our table was an exercise in a very tight snowless slalom. When we sat down, I almost felt rude not introducing myself to the couples on either side of us at tables not more than 12 i
The menu is standard American seafood with prices that reflect the oceanside location. Most of the shellfish are basic preparations, fin fish are slightly more adventurous with Asian flavors thrown in (though at this point in LA’s dining evolution, a plain hot dog is more exotic than ginger soy), and requisite “land” options read like a steakhouse selection. Shrimp cocktail is my weakness for the sinus clearing potential of accompanying cocktail sauce, but shrimp also leaves me wide open for attack by my body’s own histamines. I didn’t want to risk puffing up into a lovely blistered outbreak of hives right across the table from my host, so we started with Fried Calamari.
The breading on the calamari was thick, and thus a little heavy for my taste. That, however, was the least of the calamari’s problem. It didn’t help the calamari’s case when my host snatched the wedge of lemon from the edge of the plate and proceeded to drown the calamari in juice. There might have been a look of horror on my face, but apparently, it did not register across the table. There is a reason that the wedge of lemon is on the side. Like, salt, pepper, and other condiments, lemon juice is a choice that is left to the diner. By leaving it on the side, it implies that not everyone wants the acid in the juice to break down the complex carbohydrates of the breading before it hits the enzymes in your saliva. Not everyone likes lemon juice on their fried calamari. *I* don’t like lemon on my fried calamari. I especially don’t like lemon on my fried calamari when it is added without my consent. So not only was the over-breaded calamari just dense, I was unable to decide whether the kitchen had actually done a decent job of frying because lemon juice renders the breading soggy, chewy, and kicks off the digestion process right on the plate.
With a nod to my Dad for his eternal lesson in the difference between the two types of clam chowder, I ordered the creamy white chowder – Manhattan! (Just kidding – I think I just gave my Dad a heart attack). The flavor needed a little boost from Tabasco and I wasn’t pleased with clams in their shells. The novelty of seeing clams in their shells wore off for me about fifteen years ago when I realized 1) how dirty the shells are and 2) how dirty your hands get trying to eat out of them. The soup base was thinner than that to which I am accustomed. Damn you, Campbell’s Chunky! Damn you, bread bowls at Fisherman’s Wharf! Damn you both to heck!
We were sharing everything and unfortunately, I made the mistake of being a lady. I let him choose the main dish – scallops. Yes, it is my fault for not setting any boundaries in the beginning like, “Scallops kind of taste like congealed lard that’s been laced with fish sweat.” They weren’t horrible, but like I said, scallops kind of taste like…Never again will I try to perpetrate that which I am not. Never again will I pretend to be a lady.
If food is not The Lobster’s strong point, the dessert is its biggest weakness. We ordered what sounded like a strawberry shortcake but appeared to be a dismembered trifle, and tasted like pound cake soaked in watered-down Smucker’s. I didn’t love it. I didn’t even like it. Whom am I kidding here? I disliked it a lot. Daddy always told me there’s no such thing as “hate,” but I’d like to see him try The Lobster’s dessert.
Though the meal was disappointing, to say the least, the experience was far less so. The Cancer in me loved spending time with my host one-on-one and looking out over the nighttime ocean.
The Gemini, though? I left them in the bar.