In one episode of “The Simpsons” back when the show was still funny, bartender Moe Szyslak is in a restaurant with a rare date whom he tries to impress by ordering “the finest food you got, stuffed with the second finest.” The waiter responds, “Very good, sir: lobster stuffed with tacos.”
That scene came to mind when I first caught wind of Burger & Lobster, a London-based mini-chain of restaurants, which recently opened its second New York outpost near Bryant Park. While everything on the menu, except for desserts, is either hamburger or lobster in some shape or form, that should not be taken as an indictment of the kitchen’s output — or input: The 10-ounce burgers are sourced from Nebraska-raised Hereford beef and feature a custom blend of tri-tip, brisket, and chuck developed by the restaurant and ground to order by New York burger guru Pat LaFrieda.
You approach the entrance via a tunnel lined with lobster traps. Inside to your left is a wall of tanks housing live lobsters that have so far escaped their inevitable fate. To your right is a stairway that brings you up a flight to the bar and beyond that the dining room proper. Here the lobster and burger theme is played out in the wallpaper and more of those lobster traps. Overhead is a giant free-form copper mobile composed of burger and lobster parts. The entirety induces a happy “lobsteria.”
Settle into one of the red plush semicircular booths and order some “lobster bites” to nibble on while you study the menu. You are presented with a quartet of one-inch logs of lobster meat and shrimp, scented with lemon zest and chopped chives, wrapped in crunchy pastry; a sweet chili dipping sauce is offered alongside.
Of course there is lobster bisque. The kitchen turns out an intensely creamy, lobster-heavy version of the chowder-house classic whose richness is wisely cut with a last-minute drizzle of smoked chili oil.
All burgers, lobsters, and combos come with very good crispy fries and a salad. Ditto the lobster roll, which you can get simple (with Japanese mayo and chives) or exotic. Witness the “seven Sumurai,” large chunks of lobster meat dressed in ginger-infused mayo and combined with sliced cucumbers, scallions, napa cabbage, and sesame seeds. The sandwich, vaguely suggestive of banh-mi, is finished with togarashi chili.
The lobsters themselves, which range in size from one pound up to three and beyond (these the house classifies as “big boys”), can be ordered steamed or grilled. The end result either way is sweet and succulent.
B&L’s burgers are accurately cooked and delivered on seeded brioche buns. If you want to go high-end, order the “Frenchman,” which includes a thick disc of buttery foie gras spread with cranberry jam. Naturally, you will want a suitable beverage, toward which end you’ll find a bottle of Dom Perignon on the wine list, priced at $345.
There are two desserts, both mousses, both served in squat mason jars with hinged lids. The chocolate mousse has a depth of cocoa flavor. It arrives under a thick layer of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. The strawberries atop the strawberry cheesecake mouse are pleasantly tart, which offsets the richness of the custard below.
The restaurant, which is housed in the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, does a brisk pre-theater trade, but the majority of seats remain filled after the curtain goes up. Despite its simple fare, B&L has in its short life evolved into a food-first restaurant.
Starters run $10 to $12, lobsters $20 and up, burgers $16 to $33, and desserts $7.
Burger & Lobster, 132 West 43rd Street, 917-565-9044. Open Monsevday for lunch, weekends for brunch, daily for dinner.