Sunday, April 7, 2013

Red Lobster: Setting the Standards

Great service, a variety of choices, and excellent deals

Dexter Explores the New Menu
     My Mom and Nana used to drive fifty miles to Red Lobster regularly.  I couldn’t believe it and my Mom called me a food snob.  My sister sent us a Red Lobster gift certificate a few years ago and we went for lunch at the Kenwood location and
were very impressed.  In fact, it was such a good price that we had enough to cover part of a second lunch visit.  Since then, it’s been our go to place for a mid-priced chain.  And, as we stated in our Naughty and Nice list at the end of last year, it has the best team waiting of any restaurant we’ve encountered. 

Southwest Chicken Pizza
Sweet Chili Shrimp
     We were invited to the Ohio Pike Red Lobster near Withamsville, along with some other regional bloggers, to try out some new dishes.  I thought we were just having appetizers so, of course, I ate quite a few and then the friendly, solicitous servers were taking our entrée orders and I thought I might explode.  I enjoyed the Buffalo Chicken and Southwest Chicken Pizza, but the Sweet Chili Shrimp are terrific.  The batter was light and crisp yet moistened by the Thai chili sauce that’s spicy and sweet.  The shrimp are the right size and can be eaten in one bite.  I could have finished a couple of plates of them.

Rock Island Stuffed Tilapia
     Neil chose the Rock Island Stuffed Tilapia (from the seasonal Lobsterfest menu), which was a generous portion of tilapia stuffed with crab and seafood and topped with Maine lobster in a butter sauce.  It was tender and creamy and the fresh broccoli was cooked perfectly.  Actually, it would suit most people’s tastes.  I liked it better than the vegetables at Seasons 52, which is part of the same restaurant group as are The Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and The Yard House down at the Banks.

Bar Harbor Lobster Bake
I had the Bar Harbor Lobster Bake, which involved shrimp, sea scallops, mussels, and a roast split Maine lobster tail.  The lobster – a fish that I’ve never particularly dreamed about – was tender and lightly seasoned.  The scallops were the equal of those I’ve had at Brio or Wine Guy Bistro.  The mussels were smaller and a little overcooked.  That’s a small negative note in what is a successfully Americanized Italian version of Bouillabaisse.  The garlic and white wine broth with linguine would have done any seafood restaurant proud.  Both dishes were expansive enough for us to take leftovers home for lunch and they tasted just as good the next day (actually, two days later for Neil).  The cheese biscuits are deservedly legendary and reheat well in the microwave if wrapped in a moist paper towel as Abby told us.

Trio of Desserts
     Our servers insisted upon us ordering dessert so we went all out for the Trio.  This consisted of a caramel cheesecake, a warm brownie with ice cream, and the Key Lime pie.  Desserts are made at a corporate commissary and transported to the restaurants.  It’s efficient and the quality on display did not disappoint.  The Key Lime is noteworthy.  The graham cracker crust is thick and crunchy and plays well with the smooth creaminess of the filling.  In too many versions, the crust either cracks and falls apart or is soggy.   

     Thanks to the generous corporate and regional management for inviting us and to the ace team that runs that restaurant and hosted with enthusiasm and grace.  It was a treat to meet our peers and to hang out again with Heather, hilarious and well informed about our group.  Check out her blog The Food Hussy, which is the number one Cincinnati blog on Urbanspoon.   Way to go!  Also, check out A Gravy Train with Biscuit Wheels, especially for their take on pizzerias and downtown restaurants.  And yes, inevitably, the conversation turned to where we’d all eaten, what we liked, and where we had to go next.  Wherever that may be, keep Red Lobster in mind.  If you think you’re too good to go there, you probably don’t really like going out.

Red Lobster on Urbanspoon
Red Lobster on Urbanspoon

Thanks guys for bringing home a kitty bag. I really liked the sauce on the tilapia.  But then, as you know, I'm a sauce man!

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