My first time eating whole lobster was on a family trip to Nova Scotia. We stopped at a family run restaurant overlooking the water and I ordered a whole lobster. I was outfitted with a white bib, given tools and I did my best, with the occasional tip from our server, to get as much meat from the shell as I could. I didn't expect to find lobster that fresh anywhere but in the Maritimes so it came as a surprise when we saw people hard at work deshelling lobster meat, dipping the white meat into a plastic cup of clarified butter on the concourse of the Chelsea Market in New York City. We stopped window shopping and went on a search for the source and it didn't take us long to find it, the store is named after lobsters after all - The Lobster Place.
The Lobster Place has been serving New York fresh Maine coast Lobsters since 1974 when they started making runs to Portland from its original location in the Upper West side. Their approach was simple, deliver a high quality, hard-to-find product and do it with integrity. Over the years they've moved from their original location to Chelsea and increased their product line to include not only lobsters but everything under the sea and quite the menu of prepared seafood.
In addition to steamed lobsters there are many different types of sandwiches, salads, sushi and a collection of chowders available for take away. We walked past cases of whole fish, fillets, shell fish, oysters and the prepared food section to get to the back of the store where customers had cued to buy live or precooked lobsters. We chose to steam a live lobster instead of buying one that had been precooked earlier in the day. The cost is the same (market price) but there is a 20 minute wait for the lobster to be cooked which is easily spent browsing one of the many specialty shops at the market.
When we returned to the back of the shop our lobster was ready, sitting on a cardboard plate with a lemon wedge and small container of clarified butter. We spent the next 15 minutes in silence, prying and coaxing meat out with the occasional 'ow' when a hand got too close to the spiky shell. It was simple steamed lobster meat but it was deliciously luxurious and sweet without needing to open the container of butter. Eating on a cardboard plate on a dirty table on the concourse of the market may not have been as beautiful as a small restaurant on the coast but the flavour and smell of the lobster made you believe you were there, for 15 minutes anyway.