As we reported last year, nobody thought the concept would work in New York City, just like they didn't think it would work in London - and yet, Burger & Lobster, the brainchild of four childhood friends from Moscow who launched the first outpost in London, now has two NYC locations, and several others around the world.
For the second New York City location, the team chose to build in a landmarked building that shares space with the Stephen Sondheim Theater in Times Square, which meant they couldn't alter the building in any way.
Interestingly enough, that led them to create something of an oasis for self-watering plants, outfitted with lighting that allows them to maintain themselves and bringing one of many unique elements to the space. Typically, surrounding restaurants in the nabe fall into a few different categories: American restaurant chain, red-velvet-booth and white-linen-napkin joints, bar-disguised-as-restaurant, or family-style Italian. And most are just fallback spots rather than dining destinations.
However, Burger and Lobster on 43rd Street has gone through a tremendous amount of effort to set itself apart, including the creation of a whimsical winding path to the restaurant from the street, underneath an arch outfitted with twinkling lights and fresh greenery.
While the original location didn't even offer menus-it was pretty straightforward, burger and lobster was exactly what you got-it has now expanded to several types of burger, including one with foie gras and tomato jam, and lobster rolls (the po' boy is a must; there is nothing on this earth like a savory crunch to go with a bite of lobster roll).
Also impressive is the sheer size of the lobsters they offer. After getting over the guilt and anger of having our 4½-pound lobster presented to us alive - we didn't ask for this! - we took a tour of the blue lit lobster room and met a whopping 20-pound lobster, who was subsequently named after us, Lindsey Helaina Lobster McFatty.
It's always difficult for me to negotiate my love of animals and disdain for many of the practices involved with inhumane...er, preparation...when it comes time to consume them. However, their practices for assuring that the lobsters are transported and cooked in a comfortable, humane way made me feel a little better. Burger & Lobster's chefs and management spent a lot of personal time with scientists, lobstermen, and tank builders in Nova Scotia, people who are at the forefront of "lobster technology," both in holding and cooking techniques.
After being caught, they're first held in seawater, and then transferred to a tank full of ocean water, all at a controlled temperature, which helps maintain oxygen levels in the water. When it comes time to cook them, they are first placed in colder water, which essentially numbs them and makes them almost comatose, then placed in very high heat high-pressure commercial steamers that work incredibly fast.
Humanely transporting and killing lobsters is probably not much consolation to the crowd that would like to see the practice eliminated entirely, and it was almost enough to sway me to cancel my order...but since we hadn't named him yet (and didn't know that the restaurant, actually, had), we said our goodbyes and tried to distract ourselves from our grief by marveling at the plants that had taken their place in the wall-mounted lobster traps.
Get a tour of that Lobster Lab: