A touch of New England

Drunken Lobster brings East Coast-quality seafood to the West

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.

Drunken Lobster

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.

Reservations: no

Credit cards: yes

Parking: city lots

Alcohol: beer and wine

Happy hour: no

Corkage: $1

Children: yes

Takeout: yes

Delivery: via DoorDash

Outdoor dining: streetside

Noise level: low

Bathroom cleanliness: good

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Like this comment
Posted by David B. Karpf
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 18, 2016 at 5:08 pm

Nice review of Drunken Lobster - makes me want to try it! Would you say their lobster roll in butter compares to the one at Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay?

Like this comment
Posted by bill M
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 18, 2016 at 5:29 pm

WOW You have a new client My family arrived in New England in 1660's

Will try it soon

2 people like this
Posted by Danny
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2016 at 9:22 pm

To David B., it's a lot better than Sam's Chowder. Also, I have spent a lot of time, almost every weekend in HMB, the chowder at Ketch Joanne's and Princeton is far better than Sam's. Give it a shot if you haven't.

1 person likes this
Posted by Nancy Kundtz
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Tried drunken lobster based on your review.....my husband and I were very disappointed! The roll, while very nice, totally overpowers the scant amount of lobster inside. Additionally, the lobster is flavorless. The lobster bisque had a nice amount of lobster, the consistency was a little thin and the flavor a touch too much tomato taste. Will not return.

2 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 20, 2016 at 3:14 pm

While some people may feel it's not worth pursuing a restaurant after one disappointing first impression, the big problem with "will not return" pledges is that they lock in an existing negative perception (as if something to be jealously hoarded), and don't allow that random factors can easily make a single visit atypical and unrepresentative. (Individual tastes vary too, of course -- maybe Dale Bentson is unusually fond of lobster-- but I'm addressing a different factor here.)

That people often write as if their single snapshot experience completely characterized a restaurant is argued by their categorical phrasing ("The roll. . . totally overpowers the scant amount of lobster inside " "the lobster is flavorless") -- even though you don't know that this "is" true (even by your own measure) for every serving and customer, as the word choice implies. Or even that you'd have the same impression again at the same restaurant! But "will not return" avoids the risk of needing to examine or even revise such initial judgment after later, more positive experience. I've personally gone through such revisions of restaurant impressions many times, which is why I don't declare "will not return" (barring some very rare over-the-top cause).

And it's why, whenever possible, professional critics return multiple times, under different circumstances, and in general strive to look past any single experience, to offer readers a more representative description of a restaurant.

3 people like this
Posted by Dana B
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2016 at 7:34 pm

I enjoyed this review very much and will certainly be stopping in to get a plate of fried clams. I particularly enjoyed the riff on HoJo's. Coming home over the Cape Cod Canal Bourne Bridge I always begged my parents to stop at the HoJo's on the Cape Cod-side rotary for the clams which I dearly loved. It was however always the understanding in our family that the clam strips were not the soft shell clam sans belly, but the very different sea clam. A larger critter altogether with a large fleshy "foot" and no bothersome (to some) belly as with the soft-shell clam. It is found off shore and on some ocean shores. It was easily cut up into the strips that HoJo's sold. (Also with apologies, "Ipswitch" is spelled "Ipswich".)

Like this comment
Posted by Scarlet
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 26, 2016 at 5:12 pm

I've been wondering about Drunken Lobster and this review prompted me to give it a try. Deeeeeelicious! The lobster bisque was way better than what I had recently at a 5 star restaurant. The lobster roll was melt-in-your-mouth scrumptious (both the lobster and the perfect bread). The coleslaw was tasty too. The people working there were helpful and friendly, the atmosphere was comfortable, and the music was great. I'll definitely be going back and am telling all of my friends about it too.

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