September marks one year since the famous Luke’s Lobster hit the shores of sunny Singapore as its first Southeast Asian outpost. This February, less than six months after arriving, the seafood restaurant chain branched out from its humble-looking kiosk at Isetan Scotts at Shaw Orchard, opening a slightly bigger but no less modernised dining parlour at Jewel Changi that comes with an open kitchen and bar.
History of Luke’s Lobster
Founded in 2009 by former financial analyst Luke Holden and freelance food writer Ben Conniff, then 25 and 24 respectively, the now-famous seafood shack had its humble origins as a casual hole-in-the-wall diner at New York City’s East Village.
Frustrated with his corporate job and feeling homesick, Holden, who grew up in a coastal town in Maine, decided to leave Wall Street. It did not take long for him to realise the lack of affordable and quality lobster rolls within New York.
Rekindling his passion for the sea and lobstering – being a third-generation lobsterman who grew up in the back of boats, watching and learning from his father and other lobstermen – Holden shared this realisation with Conniff and his father, and Luke’s Lobster followed, with the business going through difficult early years before hitting the big time.
New outpost at Great World City
Now with several outposts around the world, including Japan, Taiwan, several US cities including Chicago and Washington DC, as well as Singapore, Luke’s Lobster’s latest expansion lands itself at Great World City.
Reminiscent of a beach shack, the 39-seater modern restaurant is brightly lit and adorned with plenty of wooden accents: navy coloured wooden panels, repurposed oars and elements of distressed wood on tables, chairs and walls. Most impressively, a colourful installation of lobster buoys while a huge fishing net is draped over the lights below the ceiling.
For the uninitiated, Luke’s Lobster has been a huge advocate for sustainable fishing. On one of its walls, a large infographic mural is filled with interesting tidbits that highlight the renowned fishing and production practices – such as a repurposed lobster cage that allows smaller lobsters to escape and grow as well as a V notch tool to mark and release fertile female lobsters – carried out by the lobster roll empire.
Deceptively simple, but meaty (seafood) affair
Revolving around a single sandwich – the classic Maine Lobster roll, the offerings at Luke’s Lobster are deceptively simple: besides the signature lobster roll, the other two rolls are made using shrimps from Eastern Canadian fisheries and crab meat from North America’s east coast.
Prepared and served just like how Holden grew up eating them in Maine, the rolls are served with generous but juicy chunks of chilled seafood atop a locally-made, buttered split-top bun, followed by a dollop of mayonnaise, lemon butter, and a special seasoning (rumours have it that it comprises garlic powder, sea salt, and oregano).
The Luke’s Trio, which comes with half of each roll, is perfect for first-timers who are looking to enjoy the best of all three worlds. What you get in a bite is best described as a transitioning of sorts, from the sweetness of the meat to a zesty tang, followed by an umami-oomph that serves to only encourage you to take another bite.
The rolls are best completed with a pint of chilled beer.
A nod to local palates with Mala and curry Maine lobster rolls
Debuting alongside the new outlet is a new collaboration series ‘Luke Goes Local’ that sees the famous seafood shack working with esteemed chefs from Singapore to create Maine-style lobster rolls with a local twist.
“With community being one of Luke’s Lobster’s key pillars, we wanted to showcase the collaborative spirit of Singapore’s food scene, lend our support to locally-based chefs we admire by spreading word of their creativity through our rolls, and at the same time, share flavours close to our customers’ hearts with unique and truly Singapore experience,” says Vijay Pillai, CEO of Caerus Holding, the company responsible for bringing Luke’s Lobster to Singapore.
The Luke’s x Thevar Curry Aioli Lobster Roll, the first of three collaborative rolls, pays homage to Singaporeans’ love for curry. The decadent lobster roll sees succulent chunks of lobster claw and knuckle meat, which are well coated with secret curry aioli, Xec Xec spices and homemade roasted coconut chutney, encased within the signature buttered split-top buns. A few drops of shellfish oil make for a flavourful finish.
In the press release, it was said that the curry lobster roll encapsulates chef Manogren Thevar’s modern perspective of traditional Indian flavours – just like what he is doing at his restaurant Thevar, along Keong Saik Road. While Indian dishes are often brimming with spices and can be heavy on the palate, the curry lobster roll is a toned-down variation that may not appeal to those seeking a fiery kick. Instead, it is rich, intensely smokey, and the spices used offer a refreshing contrast to the chilled lobster meat.
Chef Thevar, who grew up in Penang and whose family runs a South Indian restaurant there, adds, “The sustainable efforts that Luke’s Lobsters practices have been particularly inspiring. Similarly at Thevar, we put focus on the best modern Indian flavours created and sourced locally. The creative combination showcases the perfect harmony of Indian spices paired with the best lobster rolls.” The Luke’s x Thevar Curry Aioli Lobster Roll will be available from now till mid-October.
The second of three collaborations is with Birds of a Feather, a contemporary western restaurant steeped in pronounced Szechuan influence, and whose French-trained executive chef Eugene See doles out the sinful Luke’s x Birds of a Feather Sichuan Mala Lobster Roll.
Here, freshly thawed lobster meat is infused with Sichuan influences, such as Sichuan pepper oil, peppercorns, preserved mustard green, imported Dou Ban Jiang (soybean paste), Birds of a Feather’s signature red chilli oil and more. To complete, the roll is then smeared with sea salt, more Sichuan peppercorns, chilli and cumin.
Elusive and addictive, the tongue-numbing spiciness from this roll is a familiar flavour, quite perfect for the on-coming wet season. For Chef Eugene See, whose restaurant attempts to further customers’ understanding of Sichuan cuisine (specifically how it is not all about mala), the Mala Lobster Roll boasts an understated fusion of saltiness, umami and a pinch of heat, a testament to his finesse with spices and knowledge.
The Luke’s x Birds of a Feather Sichuan Mala Lobster Roll will be available for a month from mid-October onwards.
The last collaboration is set to take place in mid-November and will feature a new lobster roll, which is inspired from another cuisine, by chef Anette Tan from FatFuku.