10 Lobster Dishes to Try in Houston: No. 1, Poached Lobster De/ReConstructed at BRC Gastropub

One of the many things that intrigue me about the Victorian era was how the general overabundance of shellfish meant foods like lobster were more fare for the hoi polloi than the aristocratic minority. This year, a bumper crop in the Northeast has once again made lobster cheaper for the masses. And with the lowered cost of bulk orders for restaurants, chefs are getting creative in their uses of this crustacean. Here are 10 Lobster Dishes to Try in Houston.

No. 1: Poached Lobster De/ReConstructed at BRC Gastropub

Since early summer, BRC Gastropub has offered a parade of delectable lobster dishes, and -- thanks to Instagram and their timely facebook updates -- I have been able to drool over photos of each and every one.

Recently, however, I was able to trade the online food porn for real-time observation. Executive chef Chandler Rothbard (then just five weeks into his tenure at BRC) and his staff were kind enough to let me into their kitchen to watch the preparation and plating of one particularly ingenious lobster special. (See our slideshow for more details.)

Unlike all the king's horses and all the king's men, Rothbard is capable of putting it back together again. And he does so with such panache and precision that the lobster seems all the better for being broken up in the first place.

Let me explain: After poaching several one-and-half- to two-pound lobsters, Rothbard uses both shells and meat to make a rich sauce Américaine. The sauce requires more reductions than I can count as well as generous amounts of cream and white wine, so there's fat chance of it having a "light" taste or texture. But that's the point. At the end of the day, its thick, boozy, oceanific flavors do wonders for the comparatively unadorned lobster meat.

After breaking down lobster for the sauce, Rothbard turns around and reconstructs it. Claw and tail meat are painstakingly extracted from another poached lobster and arranged on the plate to replicate the fish's original architecture. Grilled asparagus serves as the lobster's "head," while the claw meat is supported by mounds of sumptuous saffron risotto mixed with a kale pesto. A rectangle of potatoes dauphinoise (lovely layers of white potato baked with custard and Gruyère cheese) holds up the plump tail halves and two pats of chilled tarragon and shallot butter flank the remaining claw meat sitting abed puffs of parsnip puree.

Once fully plated, the lobster stares up at you. You stare back. And just as some officious fellow diner crows, "That looks too good to eat," rip its tail off and dig in. Lucky for you, beauty holds no reprieve for this shellfish.

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Joanna O'Leary