There are plenty of places to get a lobster roll in the Portland area. It’s the food for which this food city – and all of Maine, really – is most known. If you were to take a survey of where to get the best one, you’d probably get 100 different answers with plenty of people suggesting it’s somewhere else along the coast. Everyone seems to have their favorites, but I think it’s important to try them all. That’s what took me to the recently opened (December) Highroller Lobster Co. on Exchange St.
I wandered into the restaurant alone on a Sunday night. The red and white diner theme stood out, as did the upbeat music. An attentive hostess/cashier greeted me and indicated that the bar was full service and everywhere else was order-at-the-counter and seat yourself. There was an easily readable menu board right behind her. I glanced at it, thinking I wanted a lobster roll, but curious what else they offered.
Burgers, dogs, BLT, and bisque were available as were a crab roll, lobster grilled cheese, cheese crisp taco, and lobster tail on a stick. The selection made me giddy. I wanted them all, but ended up keeping it simple with the Lobster Roll – brioche bun, romaine lettuce, fresh claw and knuckle, choice of sauce and threw in a cup of High Fries – shoestring fries, house seasoning, choice of two sauces. I ordered the roll warm and went with jalapeno mayo on it and red pepper mayo and curried ketchup for the fries.
Double-fisting with order #10 flag in one hand and a cup of water in the other, I found a table and made myself comfortable. The speakers overhead had covers with the HR logo. Talking Heads played with Pixies and The Modern Lovers wedged in between. The music was at the perfect volume – conversation was still possible, but it was loud enough to hear clearly and nod your head to. The place had a good vibe.
The food didn’t take long to come out. The roll was large with a toasted, buttered bun and a little lettuce on the bottom. A squiggle of the mayo rested on top. The fries were hardly darker than if they had been raw which wasn’t a great sign. My two fry sauces sat in little paper cups. I tried the spud sticks first. They were indeed undercooked, though the curried ketchup was quite good with them. I liked the red pepper mayo too, but for me, it was a little weak to go with fries.
My lobster roll was asking for it when I took my first bite. I was immediately given to the thought that it was boring. The mayo wasn’t strong and since it was jalapeno, I sort of expected a bit of a punch from it. I quickly changed my mind however, as I focused on the crisp roll and its buttery flavor. More importantly, I could really taste the fresh lobster specifically because the mayo wasn’t too strong.
Technically speaking, it wasn’t a lobster roll for a true purist with the jalapeno mayo on it, but I found myself thinking that it was only a half step off from that. There was plenty of lobster here and it was the centerpiece. The mayo barely distracted from it. Sure, I could have had drawn butter or lobster ghee instead of the mayo, but for me, the butter on the roll was ample. I tasted it in every bite and the mayo just added a little something more. Just a little.
With the $17 roll and $3 fries, my meal was only $20 plus tax. Lobster rolls aren’t cheap, but their price is fair. The fries left a lot to be desired, but only because they needed to be cooked much longer. Fortunately, that is an easily fixable mistake (unfortunately, undercooked fries are all too common in these parts), and otherwise, they were fine.
Maybe I’m a little too used to more butter or mayo with my lobster, but I think Highroller Lobster Co. has reminded me – someone who praises the natural flavor of lobster – just how good the actual flavor of lobster really is. I’m ready to go back and try more and next time I’ll most certainly be checking out the lime mayo on something. Maybe it’ll be a Crab Roll or the Lobster Grilled Cheese. Or better yet, lobster tail on a stick. Fried Lobby Pop anyone?
The Highroller Lobster Co. 104 Exchange St.
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