My friend C. and I have been planning a visit to Red Lobster for a while now, every weekend we call each other up, “Wanna go this weekend?” “Um, I’m kinda busy, how about next?” Friday was finally the day. Why did we plan an evening at a national chain with the anticipation of a fine dining experience? Three words:
Cheesy Garlic Biscuits.
And seafood drenched in fattening, creamy sauces. For some reason we felt a compulsion.
While dining at RL I was actually pleasantly surprised by the decor. It was less “Fantasy of a Maine Lobsterman” than I remembered. Lots of wooden beams.
I had grilled shrimp with a peach bourbon BBQ sauce and bacon wrapped scallops. The best part? The steamed side of broccoli. Hate to admit it. The other stuff wasn’t bad but it wasn’t that great. And the funny thing is that it could have been improved so easily. The peach bourbon BBQ sauce needed a smoky flavor to balance out the sweetness. The seafood was well cooked but that sauce- it was like I was eating candy. And someone should show them that rice pilaf is not just wild rice. I know I’m complaining about a restaurant that caters to a middlebrow taste, and churns it out like a factory but I sincerely think that the amount of customers one has shouldn’t mean the food also has to be mediocre. I’m not expecting white chocolate wasabi sauce on perfectly braised veal or anything, but lighten up on the sugar please! Seafood and acidity are friends. Don’t deny what’s natural.
While eating at RL I started to remember why I tend to avoid these chains. It isn’t just about a pretentious idea of a dining experience. I like patronizing local chefs and restaurants, not just because they have the time to focus on quality tastes and ingredients, or have a deeper appreciation of why we cook, but because I also assume they aren’t thawing the shipment of chicken breasts they got on Tuesday or just slopping on the pre-made sauces sent from HQ. Why bother eating in a restaurant that practices these methods when I don’t use them myself? Why pay money for this?
I also hate the idea of hustling the diners through, leading them to their table and making them stand there while it gets bussed. This doesn’t make for a pleasant dining atmosphere or experience. And the final reason I’m glad I don’t dine in chains more often: seeing the size of some of the departing rears.