Our beloved Dungeness crab season might be finally getting underway, given last week's lifting of a three-month health warning that arose from a local toxic algae bloom. (Recreational crabbing has resumed, while commercial is still on hold.) In the meantime, we can take advantage of that East Coast crustacean delectation, lobster, right here on the Peninsula.
Opened in October, Drunken Lobster in downtown Mountain View gets its seafood, including live lobsters, delivered fresh daily.
The lobsters I tasted were rich, sweet, delicate and not at all briny. Lobster is luscious both hot and cold, succulent in the mouth with a subtle aftertaste.
For the uninitiated, lobster is firmer than crab meat, and shreds rather than flakes so it can be chopped. Like crab, lobster meat is enhanced with sauces. (I say this being a dyed-in-the-wool Dungeness crab adherent.)
Owner Brian Langevin built the business, literally. Not only is he the chef who makes everything fresh daily, he fashioned the space, did the plumbing and electrical, installed the kitchen and decorated the Castro Street space with a nautical theme, complete with red and white checkered tablecloths. It's very much like lobster shacks found from the Cape to Bar Harbor.
Langevin has spent 15 years in the restaurant business, starting as a dishwasher and moving up to managing construction and opening restaurants for others. He is a San Jose State University graduate who recently decided the time was right for implementing his own concept. His family hails from New England, thus the East Coast connection.
Drunken Lobster's dressed lobster roll ($20), that is, tossed in mayonnaise, was served on a spongy, fresh brioche roll (made by the neighboring Hong Kong Bakery) with crisp french fries and slaw. It made an ambrosial meal. Generous chunks of tender, just-cooked lobster, lightly tossed in mayonnaise and served immediately, were as good as any I've had on the East Coast, and I make several trips to New England yearly.
For the same price, there is an undressed version that comes with drawn butter.
The clam chowder ($5 cup, $7 bowl) was thick with clams and potatoes. There was celery, too; New Englanders are divided on whether a rib of celery even so much as waved over a pot of chowder is a gastronomic and cultural sin. (Legal Sea Foods in Boston, for one, does not use celery in its chowder.) It does add another subtle flavor though, and Langevin's version is as good as any.
The lobster bisque ($7 cup, $9 bowl) was velvety smooth, creamy and tomatoey, with chunks of lobster and the slightest hint of piquancy. I finished the bowl quickly and wished for more.
Lobster and chowders aside, I thought the fried Ipswitch whole belly clams ($28) with fries and slaw were divine. The beer batter was feather-light and the clams were fat and succulent. Visions of HoJo's danced through my head as I dug into the sprawling plate of clams, fries and slaw. Those of you from the East might recall the orange-roofed Howard Johnson's. In 1925, Howard Johnson operated a soda fountain inside a pharmacy in Quincy, Massachusetts. He had big ideas and both grew and franchised a concept that spawned a chain of more than a thousand motel-restaurants across the country in the 1960s and 1970s.
HoJo's signature dish was fried clam strips from Ipswitch, Massachusetts. The clam strip was actually the foot of the clam because creator Thomas Soffron didn't like the clam belly. Soffron Brothers Clam Company sold their "Tender-sweet Fried Clams" exclusively to HoJo's.
Possibly more history than you're interested in, but both Soffron and HoJo's discarded the best part of the clam. It's like tossing aside the claws from lobsters and crabs.
Drunken Lobster doesn't make that mistake. The fried clam bellies were simply delicious.
The meaty cod fish and chips ($14) were crackle-crisp and piping hot. The generous portion came with plenty of fries, slaw and two sauces.
The mac n' cheese ($20 with lobster, $7 for a side sans the seafood) was creamy with chunks of lobster and just enough cheese without overwhelming the elbow macaroni or the delicate lobster. It tasted more of lobster than cheese exactly what I wanted.
Drunken Lobster makes the classic seafood salads as well: lobster Louie ($22), shrimp Louie ($16) and a Pacific Rim salad ($11) with organic greens, macadamia nuts and fried wontons. There are fresh oysters too; availability and selection change daily.
Langevin has just added a dozen new price-worthy lunch items, including a shrimp po boy ($10), popcorn shrimp and chips ($11), and a grilled cheese sandwich ($6).
Drunken Lobster is beer-centric, which complements the food perfectly. There are six rotating beers on tap and 20 by the bottle. There is a limited selection of wine, too, but good enough.
Langevin said his intention was to build a casual restaurant where people could hang out with good food and libations. Done.
212 Castro St., Mountain View
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Credit cards: yes
Parking: city lots
Alcohol: beer and wine
Happy hour: no
Delivery: via DoorDash
Outdoor dining: streetside
Noise level: low
Bathroom cleanliness: good