Canada

A Tale of Two Lobster Rolls (Halifax, Canada)

Written by Mark McElroy

Americans will tell you the lobster in Maine is the best in the nation, perhaps in the world. Canadians claim their lobster is better, because each crustacean is fished from colder waters. On our cruise from Boston to Quebec, we find ourselves uniquely well-positioned to put these competing claims to the test.

In Maine, at the Fish House Grill, my lobster roll raises eyebrows from the moment it arrives:

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Any lobster roll has, essentially, only two components.

First, there’s the lobster. At the Fish House Grill, the serving of lobster salad is generous enough — but bland. Instead of the buttery or citrus notes I expect, the meat is chilly and mostly flavorless. Frankly, in a blindfolded taste test, the lobster here could pass for tilapia.

And, finally, there’s the roll. At best, I expect a lobster roll to arrive on a small loaf of soft an tasty bread, split down the middle (as a hot dog bun might be). At worst — in places with no imagination — I expect a hot dog bun. At Fish House Grill, my “roll” is a slice of white bread, folded in half.

Yes, Wonderbread. Yes, one slice. No, I’m not joking.

Just over twenty-four hours later, we’re in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, tucking into yet another lobster roll — this time at the Old Fish Factory Restaurant.

Before it arrives, though, we’re treated to a lobster pizza.

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Atop a base of crispy flatbread, the chef ladles butter and spices, then piles on chunks of succulent lobster and tops it all off with a thin sprinkling of mozzarella. Eating it is like listening to a symphony with our mouths: every bite a stunning performance.

I’m holding my breath when my lobster roll arrives. When it does, it looks completely different:

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The roll is soft and warm and light. This is not Wonderbread folded in half, nor is it a hot dog bun. You could serve a po’ boy on this, if you toasted it; for now, though, the bread is pliant and pillowy.

I lift the roll, open wide, and take a big bite. Impressions:

  • Soft, soft bread.
  • The lobster in this dish has nothing in common with the Fish House Grill lobster other than a name. The meat is tender, slightly sweet, with notes of citrus and butter. It is, quite simply, everything I’ve always wanted lobster to be.
  • The dressing is creamy enough to add a pleasing texture, but light enough to avoid competing with the clean, fresh, natural taste of the lobster meat.

I mention the difference to our server, who beams at us. “In Maine, you probably got frozen lobster. Ours is caught fresh and prepared daily, and that makes all the difference.”

Are there delicious lobster rolls to be had in the States? I’m sure there are. But given today’s experience, when I can have my choice, I’ll order the Canadian lobster roll whenever possible.

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Mark McElroy

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