By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
The piano is a baby grand piano--an electric baby grand. It's wrapped in a black lip that plunges out from the piano's edge so it can serve as a launch pad for martinis. Stools are positioned around the lip so that patrons can belly up to the piano and toss out requests.
They're mostly Elton John numbers: "Border Song," "Little Jeanie," that sort of thing. There was Sinatra--always Sinatra--plus a few songs from Phantom of the Opera. But no "Rock Lobster" by the B-52's, "Lobster Bucket" by the Aquabats, "Lobster Girl" by Frank Zappa, "Lobster Lick" by D. Foster Logan or "Lobster & Steak" by Hella Brown. So what kind of a lobster lounge is this, anyway?
On Mondays it's lobsterrific. Menu announcements are reinforced by our server. "Today's Lobster Monday if you're interested," he recites in tones drained of ardor. "It's a pound lobster. It's going to yield about a handful of lobster meat, which is about three or four ounces. If you're hungry, it's not too much the way to go." This poor fellow is either trying to see how many lobsters he can't sell, or he's simply jaded about lobsterrific Monday.
We go for it anyway. It arrives in the typical manner: claws slumped over the plate rim, tail split, silver crackers installed near the edge. But before the beast with its diminutive fruits arrives, a ramekin of butter is positioned on the table with a flame underneath to keep it in top dipping form. Meat texture is near-perfect: plump, firm, moist. Flavor is robustly rich and sweet.
On weekends the Lobster Lounge is packed. On Mondays it's three-quarters so. Not on account of the pounder lobsters at just under four fins but on account of the drink specials: $2 shaved from martinis, $1.50 off cocktails and a buck off beer and wine.
The lounge is the energy source at Steve Fields. The din throbs throughout and bleeds into the restaurant, which has its own energy, though of much lower wattage. Example: On a mirror is scrawled, "If life gives you lemons, make some sort of fruity juice." --Conan O'Brien. Herbed salmon smoothies, perhaps. We didn't sample Fields' fish, though the usual suspects make an appearance: grilled tuna, grilled swordfish, grilled salmon and pecan-crusted trout. But we did try the "chop," a signature 22-ounce bone-in center-cut pork chop served with a cranberry demi-glacé.
This behemoth double chop is respectable; bones peering from the mass of meat, pinkness in the center, juices flowing. The only drawback is tepid seasoning. And herein lies the secret to Steve Fields: Success increases the closer a dish comes to steak house fare. Cranberry demi-glacé isn't exactly pork-chop boilerplate, but its presence isn't sufficient to break the rule.
Take the wedge. It's prototypical in that the hacked leaves are clean (no browns or bugs) and supple. And it has the conventional accompaniments: diced tomato (found an errant tomato core in there too) and an oozing pool of blue-cheese ranch hopped up on pepper. But it has un-expectations as well, such as bacon bits pummeling the salad where huge blue cheese crumbles usually roam. And that pepper-spice kick keeps it from dozing in the milky thickness.
Fried calamari is--as it is almost everywhere--a bit morose. Still, it is interesting. Instead of just breaded squid tethered to a couple of dips, there is fried spinach leafing through the tumbled tentacles and body rings that seem to animate the ramekin of marinara and the bulbous lemon-half for squeezing. The spinach is juicy, though the flow was disconcerting--grease. The calamari pieces are greasy, too, smearing a sheen across fingertips.
In the dining room, scrawled across another mirror is this: "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."--Virginia Woolf. True, yes. But this postulate could also be applied to drinking, which isn't always as easy as you might think in a place that lops $2 off of martinis at selected times. The wine list is reasonable, not only in its pricing but in selection, with more than 50 by-the-glass offerings. Plus the list isn't teetering under the weight of too much Cabernet and Chardonnay.
Yet if you wander outside the Chardonnay-Cabernet roster, you may find that many selections go missing. We hit two in rapid succession--the Yamhill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and the Capestrano Montepulciano d'Abruzzo--before we are forced to settle on the Cambria Pinot Noir, not a bad compromise, actually. In fairness, our wines were comped in recognition of the outage.
No wonder. Steve Fields (the man) is a veteran of dining and night living. More than a decade ago, he was in the thick of the highly successful but now defunct Dallas Alley string of nightclubs and drinking parlors. He later assumed a pivotal role in the company that launched Truluck's and, later, Floridita Seafood Grill, in whose defunct remains his steak house has made a home.