The art of the lobster roll is a lot like the art of winemaking—don’t do anything to screw it up. It’s all about fresh lobster that came off the boat that morning.
I’ve been on the east coast of Nova Scotia and Maine for the past few weeks so I’ve become an expert.
Here’s a few guidelines for a righteous lobster roll.
1. You must have the proper roll. Not a hot dog bun, please no hamburger buns. The roll must have flat sides that are generously buttered and then toasted so each bite has a buttery hint. its lobster; there must be butter.
2. The lobster must be exceedingly fresh and cooked to the perfect temperature making the meat firm but never tough or mealy.
3. The lobster should be lightly dressed in just a bit of mayonnaise, to add moisture and fat. My preference is for a few thin slices of celery in the mayo for crunch and sprinkled with a few chives, but neither are necessary. Please do not put a piece of lettuce in the bun. And don’t sprinkle it with old bay seasoning. That’s just a distraction.
4. The bun should overflow with lobster. Ideally there should be a mix of claw meat and tail meat.
5. Where you eat matters. This is the most important rule. A lobster roll must be eaten in sight of where the lobster was brought to shore, preferably in a beat up old shack on an ocean pier surrounded by lobster boats, with a briny smell in the air, seagulls on the attack and a waitress who says “labstah”.
6. There is one acceptable variation. In Connecticut they eat lobster rolls with the meat warmed and bathed in drawn butter. This is really, really good. But sadly they no longer harvest many lobsters in Connecticut due to the waters becoming too warm and so are in violation of (5). If you find this style in the proper environment you hit the jackpot.
Where does one find this perfect lobster roll?
This mammoth sandwich at Side Street in Bar Harbor Maine had the proper mix of claw and tail meat, but they put old bay seasoning on it (why?), there was too much mayo, and it wasn’t quite as fresh as others I tasted. And the restaurant is in town elbow to elbow with hordes from the cruise ships.
At Halifax, Nova Scotia on the boardwalk downtown I had a singular taste experience. A lobster roll, one half dressed in traditional mayo with celery and one half warmed in butter. Almost perfect, but alas, it was consumed at a food court accompanied by a reggae band (who were quite good but one needs jerk chicken with ackee and saltfish when listening to reggae)
It was at Corea wharf north of Bar Harbor near the Schoodic Peninsula, where Lobster Roll satisfaction is to be found. A modestly sized sandwich of perfectly cooked, stunningly fresh claw and tail meat, perfectly dressed, overlooking the harbor pictured above—(1)-(5) satisfied well enough.