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.

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.

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

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