The super chef duo Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone’s Major Food Group has made a splash with its remodeling of the revered Four Seasons space in Midtown East, starting with The Grill (yes, definitely a destination worth visiting; see my previous review at https://kenscale.com/2017/07/14/the-grill/), followed by The Pool (beautiful space, but there were some hits or misses; see my previous review at https://kenscale.com/2017/10/30/the-pool/). The final chapter of their adventure inside this iconic space came in the form of a “Japanese brasserie” led by a former chef of Sushi Azabu (one of the better sushi restaurants in the city I have been to). When I stepped into The Lobster Club with my wife Jun, I was initially drawn to the shiny décor of the space that seems like it belongs to the 1% in the city. The exorbitant price of the food certainly sends the message that this restaurant is not for everyone. Not that Jun and I dine at these places every night, but we would’ve happily given ourselves one night to splurge if the quality of food matched the luxurious surrounding or hefty price tag of the restaurant. Unfortunately, I do not hesitate to declare that The Lobster Club is the weakest restaurant of the MFG empire.
The menu at The Lobster Club is divided into cold and hot appetizers, sushi and sashimi selections and various grilled tepanyaki style meat and seafood options. Since the kitchen is led by a Japanese chef, Jun and I expected to experience the beautiful subtlety of traditional Japanese dishes with modern twists just to spice things up a little bit more. To our shock, The Lobster Club completely went the other way and the food actually turned out to be more on the fusiony side, with over-generous use of flavor that probably caters to non-Asian American diners who can afford to pay for these expensive dishes. Jun, who already drinks bottles of water every day, had to gulp down an entire cup of water in front of her just to stay hydrated amid these over-seasoned dishes, starting with raw sea bass and crispy sprouts, followed by a couple of rolls (one with spicy tuna and another with scallop) that had so much marinated sauce on top that we started to lose our sense of the texture of each seafood. We ordered some individual sushi pieces as well and they turned out to be more traditional, but otherwise particularly memorable either. The only appetizer that worked was the chicken tsukune skewer that I suspect didn’t turn out as overpowering in flavor as the other dishes thanks to the addition of foie gras on top of the chicken meatballs.
When it was time to get our grilled filet mignon, we first encountered an elaborate set of nine different sauces. At first, Jun and I figured that the meat would come out with no flavor so that we can complement it with the sauces as we see fit. Well, it turned out the sauces were just for the show! The filet mignon already came with seasoning on top that was so offensively overpowering to our palate that Jun constantly asked, “Why bother bringing out these sauces?” It was really unfortunate because the meat itself was otherwise quite aptly cooked medium rare. The side dishes of mushrooms and shishito peppers didn’t help mitigate this sensation but rather exacerbated the situation with aggressive seasoning on their own. Only after having the desserts of matcha cream puffs and the Instragrammable blood orange kakigori (a massive shaved ice dish) were we able to cleanse our palate.
Getting a reservation at The Lobster Club could be tough just like any other MFG restaurants, especially with the glitzy atmosphere that can pamper your worst inner desire to have a fancy evening. In fact, as I looked around our table, I can sense that the people were at the restaurant not because of the food, but they wanted to be a part of this back-to-the-lux experience that MFG has so cleverly fostered in its other restaurants. There is full bar with some creative cocktail selections that I thought were worth stopping by at the bar for quick drinks. Despite all the criticisms of MFG’s restaurants for catering only for the 1%, up until we visited The Lobster Club, there was no question that each restaurant under MFG’s umbrella had its own distinctive style and generally had very good food. Perhaps The Lobster Club is a sign that quality control has finally become an issue at the growing expansion of the MFG empire.
KenScale: 7.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 7.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 5.5/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
- Value: 6.0/10
Address: 98 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
Telephone: (212) 375-9001