100 Favorite Dishes 2013: No. 50, Black Pepper Beer Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant
This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape. It's a list to drool over.
Photo by Troy Fields Out of the frying pan, into my stomach.
If you read my review of Hai Cang back in September, you already how crazy I am about these lobsters. If you didn't read it, allow me to summarize:
Two whole lobsters. Wok-fried in butter, beer and black pepper sauce. Chopped, cracked and served on a platter. $18.99.
When I first ordered the lobsters at Hai Cang, I was in disbelief. There's just no way, I thought, that two lobsters for such a low price could be any good. I mused about them being frozen for months or being the cheap, throwaway lobsters from some sketchy farm in Mexico. (Note: Mexico does have lobster farms, and they appear to be legit.) Visions of food poisoning danced through my head.
And then the lobsters arrived at our table, cut into manageable chunks, the beady eyes staring up at me from within the bright red, succulent head. Every inch of the scarlet shell gleamed with butter and flecks of freshly ground pepper. The smell rising off the crustaceans and invading my nose was pure heaven: rich seafood mixed with spices and hot butter.
These were no mere bargain lobsters.
The shells are pre-cracked so the battle between hunger and chitin that usually accompanies a lobster dinner was all but eliminated. I grew more in awe every minute as my fingers slipped over the shells and revealed the ruddy, speckled meat within them. The frying in butter makes the shells somewhat greasy, but the meat contained inside is just as fresh and plump as if it had been steamed, and there's no oily flavor at all to it.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg If I could eat like that every day, I'd be fat and happy. And fat.
Three of us finished two lobsters and a host of other dishes easily. I vowed to return and order two lobsters, just for myself.
On a recent excursion to Hai Cang, they'd run out of the "special" lobsters, leaving only the giant $23.99-per-pound lobsters available. I ordered walnut shrimp instead (also a sinfully good dish), so I still haven't been able to get two lobsters of my very own. It's not a problem, though. It just means I have to keep going back to Hai Cang and trying more things until my crustacean compadres and I are reunited at last.
The list so far:
No. 51: Red Dragon Roll at Michiru Sushi
No. 52: Fried Bananas Foster at Custom Confections
No. 53: Bánh Canh Hue at Simply Pho
No. 54: Kimchi Koagie at Koagie Hots
No. 55: The Juicy Lucy Burger at Lowbrow
No. 56: Eggplant Fries at Batanga
No. 57: Macarons at Ganache Dessert Bar
No. 58: Grilled Cheese at The Golden Grill
No. 59: Baklava French Toast at Harry's Restaurant & Cafe
No. 60: Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro's
No. 61: Old Fashioned Frito Pie at Armadillo Palace
No. 62: Korean Spiced Brisket Plate at Revival Market
No. 63: Bánh Mì at Les Givral's Sandwich and Cafe
No. 64: Squirrel Master Burger at Cottonwood
No. 65: Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATS
No. 66: Enchiladas de Mole at La Guadalupana
No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's
No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi
No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood
No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery
No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19
No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's
No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac
No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto
No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop
No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi
No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas
No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius
No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria
No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch
No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub
No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire
No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches
No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill
No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's
No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie
No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao
No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum
No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar
No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro
No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood
No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub
No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club
No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen
No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra
No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro
No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia
No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme