Red Lobster - Behind The Scenes & On The Table
Second time walking into the world famous Red Lobster, I was going in with the expectations the size of the brand itself. My first time there was an utter disappointment as I didn’t get past the reception table even after a 20-30 minute long wait. A common sight in Qatar, a newly opened restaurant often becomes the talk of town, add to it endless marketing adds & you have the perfect recipe of an overcrowded dine in. Hence, I decided to end the grumble in my tummy and settle for a humble shawarma that night. That was more than a year ago. Greeted by a very humble staff of cute smiles and warm welcomes, I am guided around to our table. En-route I started observing my surroundings to find an endless array of empty tables with a few scattered occupants. Its 7pm and in Qatar, that’s the time for either a very late lunch or time for a Karak. So I walk in like an enthusiastic kid inside a theme park, touching everything and wide eyeing every little detail. As I am wiping the drool off my face from the exquisite mahogany oak wood interior highlighted by the classic dim light ambience we reach the tables we were assigned. There I am introduced to meet a couple food bloggers alike, armed with their grinning smiles and fully charged cameras I felt like being a part of some holy food ritual I was going to partake in.
Mr. Mohammad, a crisp clothed formally dressed Arab gentleman with a finely polished head introduces himself as the Food Manager who was going to be in-charge of our experience. As we settle in our seats, we are approached by a smiling, jovial waiter by the name of Mohab asking our order for drinks. In the first glance I ordered the Blue Hawaiian & turning to take my phone out, Mr. Mohammad starts showing us a big block of wood he was holding in his hands (I thought he was going to question us about a broken furniture) Thankfully, It was a piece of OAK wood which he said is used in all their grills. I took the piece and held it to take a sniff, which didn’t really have a distinct feel than the wood I use for bon-fires. This heavy piece, he said was imported all the way from Mexico into USA and flown into Qatar so people like us could pay extra on our meals. Well, not exactly true, for people who thrive on quality food the smokiness of authentic OAK wood into your regular BBQ is the fine line that separates home food from fine-dining. So once were done being amazed by this piece of dead tree, Mohammad brings in two live lobsters, one in each hand holding them by their backs trying to scare us. Cheeky attempt I thought but he was actually going to explain to us about what these buggers meant for them. For us, perhaps they are a large size of grilled meat on our plates and money out of our pockets. But to these guys these lobsters meant business, literally and in essence with their passion.
The few things he mentioned about these beauties of the ocean are :-
All their lobsters are flown in from Canada twice a week into Qatar, NO not with the wood I presume because these guys have to be transported under 7 Degree temperatures in order to make it home alive. (*Nerd-fact. Fished off the North Atlantic ocean, Known to some of the fiercest and coldest of waters to sail on…. Try fishing for lobsters in freezing 2-3 Degree waters)
All / Most of their lobsters are sized, graded and health checked (Not the kind of physical exercise you and I do) and are in the ranges of 1.2- 1.8 Pounds (*Nerd-fact. Pounds are American standard for weights which is roughly 2.2 Pounds to 1 Kilogram) The health of a lobster can be fun to test, its known as a helicopter test (Talk about irony, the friend I went with is a Helicopter Engineer who almost jumped his seat on hearing this) in which you hold the lobster with his head up and tail down in a vertical position in the air. If he/she stretches its claws in perfect horizontal with their body, Making a “plus” or a “cross”, It is perfectly fit for Crucifixion or cooking.
Lobsters are sexists sea creatures. Why so? How do you differentiate between a male and a female lobster?? No you don’t have to flip and check their underside. All you need to do is see which of their claws are bigger. If the Left claw is bigger, it’s a SHE and the right claw is bigger it’s a HE. Females are more aggressive and have a bigger skeletal tail to protect their eggs while the males just have a bigger right claw to throw in a sucker punch once in a while. Irony of life even in the origins of life.
The tastiest meat in a lobster is inside their claws so may it be Male of Female… pick the one with the biggest asset. These guys are fun to eat.
Fun to eat but not fun to play. All the lobster’s clawsare tied off so they can’t open them. Mohammad was quick toinform that if they left them open, they would kill each other. Honestly, they reminded me of my ex.
SO once we completed our Induction it was time for us to place our orders. Since the wood-fire grill was their newest addition we decided to order something from that and Mohab was super courteous to give us suggestions and guide through. We placed our orders and we were invited by Mr. Mustafa for a guide around the kitchen to which I was extremely delighted. Not just that I had a free access into the theme park but now I could go visit the place where magic happens. At the door we are given masks and hair nets where I notice their entire staff is wearing them except Mohammad who was just wearing his face mask, for obvious reasons. We were toured around the kitchen by their Head of Home (HOH). And we were told not to click photos inside, and for good reason. I noticed that these people are meticulous to the next level. Each item from the food boxes, trays, plates, cups, spoons, tonks, brushes etc. had their own place and location inside. Nothing was left to be kept outside the designated shelves or racks. The walk in store and cold room (Yeah we walked inside their fridge, Try that sometime) was like walking into a training camp of an advanced military. Each box was highlighted with their dates of produce & expires. Each storing rack had levels specifically designated for certain kinds of food, if the salad went below rack 5 it was a breach of security in the deserts compartment. I no longer feel anger when my mother orders me to do my dishes. So after the entire survey, Lft General HOH ordered one of the chefs to bring in a live lobster as the time for crucifixion had arrived. They were going to demonstrate how to slay these hard shelled beings. Within a few seconds it was done, all he did was poke a big knife into a small cavity between his head and body and severe his fuel line after which he was dead as a rock…. A tasty rock to be.
So all the killings and burnings later it was time to head back to our tables where I was welcomed with my “Lobster Bisque Soup”. I didn’t waste any time to take a taste and it was indeed very creamy, just like how Mohab described it to be. It contained few small pieces of lobster meat inside and it was a sea food soup unlike any other I’ve ever tried. My helicopter buddy ordered the “New England Clam Chowder Soup” without knowing what Clams are. He didn’t have a choice as that was the only other option for soup available. It was creamy too but the clams for us were no different than vegetables alongside our steaks. My “blue Hawaiian” was indeed blue and topped with a slice of pineapple which I ignored again and gulped down the alien juice. I couldn’t wait for my “Sweet Chilli Shrimp” which on arrival left me in awe. A dozen shrimp, Just for me, I was left in tears. Wearing the plastic bib with a red lobster in the Centre, we all looked like a comedy scene from the TV show Dexter. I dug into the Shrimps and I was in love. It was sweet & spicy for American standards, me being an Indian I would laugh at the term spicy for such things but I am well-behaved and adored by the shrimps. Mr. Helicopter, my buddy seemed a bit confused after tasting his “Lobster-Crab-And-Seafood-Stuffed-Mushroom”. By the looks of it he was again a first timer on mushrooms as we come from a pure Non-Vegetarian diet. I did try a piece off his plate and it was filled with cheese and seafood you couldn’t notice much. Omer advised me to stay away from the creepy looking black thing at the bottom, referring to the juicy mushroom amongst the deep fried ball of sea. I was almost stuffed by this time when Mohab drops the MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs- Its actually a name of a bomb used by the American military) on me. The “Grilled Lobster, Shrimp & Scallop” which seemed a good sized portion for a main-course was a daunting challenge for me to finish. I had no idea what scallops were until I sneaked up on google to which my bad mobile reception screwed me over. Anyway, after a good photo-shoot with my food and my buddy’s “Grilled Jumbo Shrimp” it was time to start belting. My eyes couldn’t get off his Jumbo Shrimps, man they were massive, bigger than his face and way bigger than his petite hands could hold. He asked me, Faiz, I’ve opened complex AW139 engines & gearboxes in my life but I’ve no idea how to go about this massive shrimp. It was time to call in the Mohab who at once obliged and went off to get his tools. Equipped with nothing but hand gloves and a happy face, he decapitated the shrimp’s giant head and pulled off the meat in what we all looked at nothing but a shear stoke of genius. Looking at his skills Omar & Omar the Qatari duo from the blog Qatar Food asked in for rescue too. Soon Mohab had all the shells out and meats on the plates for everyone to enjoy their lobsters, which on a first look seemed like rocket science. The staff was ever so wonderful and happy to lend a hand in the serving. My Lobster was just a part of the tail so the meat came off very easy. Eating for the first time it didn’t taste all that different from a crab apart from its meat being a bit tougher. A bite of it was like an ocean inside your mouth as you could practically taste the north Atlantic in your palate. The scallops tasted like bland chewing gum to me at first but after a bit of seasoning, it was done for. So all cleaned up and small talks later we decided to share a “Strawberry cheese-cake” and my-o-my it was delicious. Smooth creamy cheesecake topped with a strawberry sweet sauce with a handful of glazed strawberries, it was the atomic bomb of the night.
To end it all, if you’re a seafood fanatic, a lobster-molester, a Grill-Freak and a person willing to spend those few extra riyals for an experience with food, I’d recommend this place for you. If you’re scared and worried about making a mockery about yourself trying to eat a lobster, then there isn’t a better place in Qatar to learn and feel absolutely comfortable making a mess on your table
Review by Faiz - A true foodie at heart.