We came specifically to “The Keg” for their summer lobster menu, only available until the end of August. I choose this location as I like it the most. Not only because is it close to home, but because it is also out of downtown. Tucked away, it tends to be less busy and less seated. I have never had to make a reservation or to take a seat in wait. However this Thursday evening, the lot was filled and there were a few couples waiting in their spacious lobby.
I joined my guest on the patio. The weather was warm, and seeing as we have little nights left to enjoy a meal outdoors, we took full advantage of a dinner outdoors at dusk. I have dined at and written about this location before, but this was my first time on their patio. It was a semi covered seating area facing the parking lot. The potted plants, lit candles, and spot lights actually gave the area the feeling of being indoors. It kept the higher standards of “The Keg” with stone pillars and a matching stone fireplace. Although the tables and chairs were made of wicker, their pale grey colouring with metal and glass accents did give each piece of furniture a dressier feel.
As I mentioned earlier we came in with the sole intention of having lobster, so didn’t even look at the rest of the menu. We focused our attention at their “Lobster Summer” menu. My first literally went “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” and we got the first five things off the menu. We ordered all the share sized appies, what remained was an entree sized surf and turf and a whole Atlantic lobster, or just its tail. Our server was taken a back by our brazen-ness and chuckled as she wrote down each dish’s actual name. She exclaimed that we were the first to do this, this season. It felt like a victory for us.
Our meal began with a loaf of complimentary bread and butter. Crispy on the outside and soft and spongy on the inside. The buttery was whipped smooth like cream. We saved most of the bread to be used with the dish below.
“Lobster Gratinée” is oven-baked lobster with garlic, herbs, and melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses. The lobster chunks were sawed off and sectioned into a porcelain escargot plate. This plate was a handled dish that came with several dimples. Each dimple allowed a chunk of lobster to sit soaking in oil. But was well hidden under a blanket of gooey melted cheese. Cheese, lobster, and bread together can do no wrong. The cheese was salty, the buns were sweet, the herbs savoury, and the lobster pieces buttery. We used the bread as a good base for all the grease, it was great for dipping with.
I found the “Szechwan Lobster” just so-so. Though I am probably biased seeing as I grew up having similarly prepared Asian style whole lobsters during family dinners at Chinese restaurants. Those lobsters were prepared fresh, often allowing you to choose your own crustaceans from the tank. This plate seemed like an attempt at what was described above. Golden fried lobster and shrimp, tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce with a mix of chilli peppers, red peppers and asparagus. Each piece of seafood was battered crispy. It’s flavour reminded me faintly of North American style sweet and sour. Not my favourite, but not bad. Sadly the intensity of this dressing hid the mild flavour of lobster, it actually all went better with the pieces of shrimp. The vegetables were equally heavily sauced, and as a result only offered a break in texture not taste. Together it was all very flavourful, but the dipping sauce on the side gave you options. It had a vinegar sour tang to it, better used as brine for pickling than a sauce for dipping.
The “Crispy lobster tacos” had “golden fried lobster pieces tossed in crispy rice, and served on warm tortillas with a cabbage slaw and cilantro. The tacos was one of my favourite dishes tonight. The lobster was prepared similar to to the Asian style above, but was better company to the chilled slaw and the warm flour tortilla. It was still battered and fried with a crispy exterior and a chewy centre. There was lots of flavour from it to the creamy pickled slaw, and the grilled to a char corn kernels. It truly came together as a taco with the self added cheese sauce. It was a cheesy dill flavoured ranch-like sauce. So good that we also used it with the fries below.
“The Keg’s” version of a lobster roll included both shrimp and lobster, to me it just seemed like a way to cut costs. The mix of lobster and shrimp in mayonnaise was sandwiched between a butter-brushed brioche roll, and served with a side of cabbage slaw and fries. I found the sweetness of the bun distracted from assumed savoury taste of the would be roll. This could have been remedied with the addition of more salt and a sprinkle of pepper, or maybe just the use of a crusty bun. At least the lobster and shrimp mix had a good amount of cream to it, and it wasn’t watery like I have had with other lobster rolls in the past. They also used large chunks of lobster, I made out a full claw; shame it had to share the lime light with shrimp. The coleslaw side was the same as in the taco, but was not so great on its own. It needed dressing, some extra kick to have it stand on its own.
A miniature “Surf and turf” platter with two tender mini filet medallions and a three ounce Canadian Atlantic lobster tail. This was served with a different cabbage slaw and some steamed asparagus. The steak-ed portions were cooked to a perfect medium rare, snd were as great as the lobster tail they were paired with. Tender beef and juicy seafood, the ultimate best of the land meets the best of the sea plate. The beef was peppery with large cracks of peppercorn. And the tail was the purest form of lobster we had tonight, perfectly poached and dressed with melted butter. It was clever to stack the tail on top of the asparagus rods, to coat both in butter at the same time. This coleslaw was dressed in a brown sauce, it had a familiar Szechwan taste to it. Too salty on its own, better when partnered with a cut of steak. It was very clever how they used similar ingredients to create this many dishes. I mean they used the base coleslaw three different ways.
Our server was attentive, she checked in often and hovered in case she was needed. Though I wouldn’t expect anything less from “The Keg”, it is one of the higher end causal chains, with higher standards at a higher cost. My only compliant had nothing to do with the restaurant. There were plenty of fruit flies buzzing around, but that’s what happens when you choose to dine outdoors. I was stunned that they were bold enough to land and stay on a plate, even when we were swatting them left and right.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This was lobster-palooza! We covered all the main lobster flavours during this extravagant meal: creamy lobster, lobster with cheese, butter on lobster, and even lobster prepared Asian style. Having a little bit of everything is a great way to eat, and we were fully satisfied with amount of lobster we got. Shame, we would have to wait a year to have any more. Don’t deny your cravings.