I’m sure many of you are surprised to see me at a restaurant with the word “lobster” in the name. Despite the quirky crustacean name of this Pearl District restaurant, The Hairy Lobster offers plenty of vegetable-focused plates meant for sharing. I was recently invited to taste some of their vegetarian dishes, and as it turns out, The Hairy Lobster is right in my neighborhood. Howdy, neighbor!
Upon entering The Hairy Lobster, you’re greeted by a striking blue wall with an eclectic collection of metal knobs and fixtures. We briefly joked about how our neighbors might react if we changed our front door’s knocker to one of these unusual pieces before being whisked away to our table in the heart of the restaurant.
At The Hairy Lobster, old meets new both in the ambiance and cuisine. I swooned over the medley of rustic wood, industrial accents, and mismatched vintage plates. We arrived for an early 5:30pm reservation and watched the energy in the open, airy space transform once dinner service was in full swing.
After many years of building impressive careers in the food industry, husband wife team David and Mellisa Root opened The Hairy Lobster together. The seasonal menu celebrates local and regional ingredients and is broken down into three sections: Water, Garden, Barn. I was here to sample some Garden dishes that the Roots had picked out in advance.
First up, the blistered padron peppers ($11) with lemon, pimenton, sea salt, and parmesan squash. Lovely char on these peppers, and if you happen to get one of the bigger peppers, there’s quite a kick of heat. Blistered peppers are not an uncommon menu item, but the tasty squash puree makes this one stand out.
You can always count on a rustic-chic American restaurant to have good cocktails ($11). With rose, elderflower, honey, peach bitters, grapefruit, and cava, the Tea Rose was crafted for hot summer days. The chili pepper in the Thai One On is hot, hot, hot, but the mixture of spiced coconut milk, vodka, and lime balances the heat.
When you say “vegetable bread”, the first thing that comes to mind are stories I’ve heard from friends who have tried to bake juicer pulp into bread and failed miserably. The Hairy Lobster’s vegetable bread ($6) is a perfect example of veggie bread done right. Fluffy, savory, and sweet with a touch of spice. And that vegetable ash butter!
I’ve never seen anything like this before: carrot fritto misto with fennel, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds ($11). The plating is stunning, the carrots are perfectly cooked, and the bed of goat cheese salad was enjoyable. However, I found myself craving a lighter, palate cleansing component that would cut through the fried and creamy textures.
Green beans are an American classic, so it was no surprise to see them here. In this salad ($10), cool and crunchy green beans meet a white soy and romesco dressing topped with shaved mushrooms. This was a refreshing take on green beans compared to the many mushy green bean dishes I’ve had in my life. This salad normally comes with anchovies, but the kitchen omitted them to make it vegetarian for us. Having an extra savory topping might bring it all together more.
You guys know I absolutely adore gnocchi, and I think my heart beat a little faster when this beauty arrived at our table. Memo to self: pick up a couple serving bowls like this one.
The Hairy Lobster’s melt in your mouth gnocchi rests gently in a cream sauce with delicious notes of compressed lemon and crunchy fried sage. I learned that they puree turnips into the cream sauce so it’s rich without being overloaded with butter and cream. That and the bursts of lemon make such a difference. This is a must order item.
As if the gnocchi didn’t already take me to a happy place, our dessert was another gorgeous creation. Mellisa Root is a renowned pastry chef after all. Here is the razzleberry crisp ($11) with olive oil corn cake, stewed berries, rustic crumble, braised fennel, and brown sugar ice cream. Can we talk about how picture perfect this is?
This summer dessert is layered, so you really need to dig in with a spoon. There may be a lot of elements here, but the flavors and textures are very complementary. When the brown sugar ice cream melts and flows everywhere, and the corn cake soaks up the berry juice, and you get that sweet crunch from the crumble… oh my!
Note: I was invited as a guest to this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.