Sake Gumi

So I've decided that my days of blogging virginity will be cast into the past, and what better way to hail the occasion and set the mood than with a blog about that most ancient of aphrodisiacs, seafood.

As a precursor to a Lobster roll-centric New England road trip (posts coming forthwith) that I planned (and since executed), I headed to BLT Fish Shack in the Flatiron district to see what stake the Laurent Tourondel empire has claimed in the seafood world.

We started off with some treats from their raw bar: Dungeness crab, some Jonah crab claws, Blue Point oysters, and something I've never tried before, whelks, commonly known as sea snails.

To my surprise, the whelks were pretty chewy and meaty and tasted as if they had been infused with the ocean's very essence--which probably they had been, since, well...they've been marinating in the ocean pretty much their entire lives.

Dungeness crab from the raw bar:

But on with the original purpose of the venture: the lobster roll.

Anyone familiar with the traditional lobster roll--or king of sandwiches, as I like to call it--will recognize that the version served here is far from traditional (gasp!), as the standard lobster roll involves a bun or roll, usually toasted and crammed with chunks of lobster and coated with either mayo or melted butter, and nothin' more. But this is New York City, land of the Yankees (not referring to the sports team), known for taking someone else's creation and improving upon it--or wait, was that the Japanese? In any case, I'm a deep believer in rewarding innovation via patronization, so I ordered one of their lobster rolls to try for myself. I soon realized why traditionalists stick to tradition.

Tourondel ups the traditional ante on the famed sammich by mixing the mayo with chives, tarragon, celery, and lemon, served on a brioche. Purists, and I'm not one of them, would argue this constitutes a "lobster salad" roll, but we're not here to argue fine points.

And while BLT's version was tasty and perhaps unique, it ultimately paled in comparison to its more simpler version because it had forsaken the essential qualities that make a lobster roll great to begin with: generous chunks of lobster (over)stuffed in a soft, buttered, toasted roll--the bread part, imho, being a crucial element both in texture and taste. In BLT's version, neither were there too many big chunks of lobster, nor was it a generous amount of meat overall. And the bread, well, let's just say it was more of an extra than a supporting actor.

Oh well, on to New England. Traditionalists: 1, Innovators: 0.

BLT Fish Shack
21 W. 17th Street
nr. Fifth Avenue
T: 212.691.8888


  • Steak in this country is too straightforward, no innovation or creativity, so unless you are a huge fan of red juicy meat, I wouldn’t recommend BLT (well, it might worth going just for their popover, though).

    Yamahomo on

  • Hey thanks for the comment.

    Personally I wasn’t that impressed by the Fish Shack. Haven’t been to BLT Fish, which is on the 2nd floor of the Fish Shack, and is supposed to be the more expensive actual restaurant part of it. The Fish Shack was expensive enough ($24 for a lobster roll). The rolls at various new england clam shacks range from $15-18, maybe $20 if they’re in a tourist trap location.

    If you wanna eat in the flatiron, I recomment Devi. It’s a chef-inspired Indian restaurant that serves pretty tasty and unique takes on traditional indian cuisine. And both chef-owners are indian, so no authenticity issues there. We went a few weeks ago, and every dish was outstanding. If you go, you have to get the manchurian cauliflower appetizer. How they gave cauliflower the texture of buffalo wings beats me. Just get the chef’s tasting menu and you’ll be fine.

    Hope that helps. Lookin forward to the banh mi!

    Paystyle on

  • whenever i try to think of where to eat around Union Square, i blank, and always forget about this place!!! looks like a must try. pretty pricey though, or reasonable?

    have you been to BLT Steak? i know Yamahomo’s been. is it any good? i wonder how Tourondel’s seafood skills compare.

    welcome to the fucked up blogosphere, Pay. you are a welcome member.

    kayoko on

  • The next time i’m in New York, I’m definitely checking this place out, but hold the lobster roll please I think I rather head to New England for that. There’s no bigger turn off than taking something so delicious and simple like a lobster roll and drowning out the flavor with the extra ingredients just to say you put a “spin” on things.
    I guess that puts me on team traditionalist.
    Next time you’re in SF check out Swan’s Oyster Depot I think the term raw bar may have started there, it’s literally a bar with raw seafood behind the counter, the only thing they cook is clam chowder and steam the crab.

    Happy Eats!

    Maria L. (mana) on

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