Story and photos by Dwight Casimere
The (original)Palm New York
837 Second Avenue
New York,New York 100017
The Palm Chicago
323 East Wacker Drive
There is no more decadent guilty pleasure on a hot summer night than consuming a humongous grilled live Maine lobster. Notice I said "grilled" and not steamed,because grilling unlocks the true, luscious flavor of this most prized of all crustaceans.
That is exactly how they are prepared at The Palm restaurants and why I made it my first stop on a dining tour of New York's oldest and most celebrated steak and seafood houses.
In virtually ever city where The Palm is located, the restaurant has managed to insinuate itself into the local dining culture as a culinary landmark. That is not without good reason.The clubby atmosphere,no nonsense presentation and pristine meat and fish prepared to meticulous perfection by seasoned chefs,makes The Palm a real standout among its imitators.
With that in mind, a pilgrimage to the original edition on Second Avenue in New York on the first night of summer was a must for this gustatory ranger and his posse of hungry recent middle and high school grads in town for a celebratory graduation gift tour of the Big Apple.
"Wow!" Was the collective exclamation as our white-jacketed waiter placed a giant platter in the center of the table and ceremoniously removed the silver plated warming dome to reveal a sizzling,crimson six pound lobster. The hammer sized claws drooped over the edge of the plate and the split surface of the tail revealed the fluffy,tantalizing flesh encased within. This was a daunting dining task, even for a couple of ever-hungry teens,one of them a still-growing would-be WNBA star and supermodel, the other, an aspiring doctor.
With the online announcement that The Palm restaurants nationwide would be continuing a specially priced lobster festival for the remainder of the summer, I decided it was time to do a folo-up and get up close and personal with one of the deep water Atlantic beasts in the subterranean kitchen of The Palm Swissotel Chicago.
Executive Chef Scott Schmitz emerged from the gleaming stainless steel refrigeration unit hoisting a huge six pound beauty that had been caught off the coast of Nova Scotia less than a day before.
"We get all of our lobsters flown in fresh every day from Nova Scotia because we have an exclusive contract with Clearwater, the leading supplier of sustainable seafood. The lobsters here at The Palm average 4-6 pounds and are among the largest you will find in any restaurant.
"We try to kil them as humanely as possible,first splitting it open at the base of the head and then removing the claws and slitting it along the underbelly of the tailbone.We then remove the intestinal track and internal organs,which are inedible, and then spread it open to reveal the tamale.This is a male.You can tell by the thinner,pointed tail."
Most restaurants that I know steam their lobsters,but Chef Schmitz doesn't recommend the practice."Its a slow,agonizing death.The way we do it here at The Palm is much more humane.Its also important that we don't get attached to them and give them names and start treating them like pets because they're going to be on somebody's plate within 48 hours of their arrival here."
The cooking process is simple:
"After we dress the lobster we pour on a bit of half and half to give it a nice,moist creamy texture and we add some seasoning (a house secret) before putting it in the broiler under high heat for about 6-7 minutes. Then we let it rest in the fridge for a while before heating it up again and presentoing it to you sizzling hot at your table."
Chef Schmitz displayed the finmished product with the prideful smile of a sport fisherman displaying his prized catch.
During my dinner at The Palm Manhattan, I recall splitting open one of the giant claws while downing a glass of Ferari Carano Chardonnay from Sonoma ($28). It was the perfect ending to a marvelous day of sightseeing. Having a champion-sized lobster was icing on the cake.
"It take 7 years per pound to grow one of these big beauties,"Chef Schmitz instructed."So a lobster this size is over 40 years old." I'll be sipping Veuve Clicquot Champagne at the Starting Gun party for the 102nd Chicago Yacht Race to Mackinac at Monroe Station later that night . Veuve is also the official race sponsor. I'll be sure to lift a glass to my fallen lobster friend,who, by then, will be bathing in a slather of warm butter.
Sent on the Now NetworkT from my Sprint