March 18, 2015

Fishman Lobster Clubhouse

Way back when, I read somewhere that Andrew Zimmern called Fishman Lobster Clubhouse the best Hong Kong style seafood restaurant in North America. It was game over at that point. I made it my mission to head up there for some HK goodness and ever since it's been a Thach Family tradition to come back yearly for mom's birthday.

The ordering system is a little weird and can get incredibly confusing. So, take your time and don't let the bossy servers rush you. 

They have a slew of combos you can choose from as well as ordering a la carte.  The first time we went, we decided to go with a lobster & crab combo for a little over $250 and upgraded to the shark fin, lobster two ways, & Vancouver crab combo (I think this was around the $350-$400 mark) on our second visit. This review is a combination of both visits.

Whatever you decide, make sure to get the Hong Kong style lobster (pictured below) - you can't leave without getting this item. 
When you're ready to order, the server brings out the live crab & lobster for you to examine. Make sure you get exactly what you want to pay for. They can get pretty aggressive with trying to up sell you on a larger lobster/crab. And they don't even bat an eyelash when you ask for a selfie with the live crustacean.  Papa Thach was all over that. 
The first course is usually soup if you go the route of ordering a combo. We had black chicken soup our first time and then shark fin soup our second time. For anyone who grew up in an Asian household -  black chicken soup is that one soup your mom made that you always hated. I mean absolutely despised, very medicinal and bland. The chicken is way too tough to eat so you're really just sipping on broth. I usually wouldn't mind a nice clear consommé but I couldn't get over the medicinal aftertaste. Not really my cup of tea.

On our second visit we upgraded to the shark fin soup combo. This was my first time having shark fin soup and I thought it was banned and assumed this was an "imitation" shark fin. Doing the research now, it looks like they over turned the ruling in 2012 so I will definitely not be ordering this again. 
Next came the star of the show.  The lobster and king crab. They were both prepared pretty much the same way. Lightly coated in flour, deep fried and then stir fried in garlic. The HK style comes with fried anchovies and chillies. This is oh-so-good. Honestly, the best way to prepare seafood in my opinion. The shell gets really crispy and salty, while the meat stays sweet and juicy. 

They are incredibly generous with the little bits of fried anchovies too. They're a lovely dish onto themselves. Mama Thach likes to take them home and whip up fried rice the next day. Both times I went, the lobster was just a bit undercooked, which I don't mind, just be mindful if this is a factor for you.

They do an excellent job of breaking the shells too, making it easier for me to plough through these two towers. They also offer plastic gloves if you're too afraid to get your hands dirty. On our second visit we ordered two towers of lobster. One with fried garlic and the other one HK style as well as Vancouver crab instead of King crab. I was more in favour of the king crab tower, not because it tasted better but because my lazy butt can get to the meat way easier. (king crab pictured below on the left)

The combo we ordered on our second visit came with steamed fish, abalone and sautéed pea shoots. Abalone for me is good but not mind blowing great. It's a little buttery, salty, and chewy - kind of like what tofu would be like if it had a baby with a scallop. You know what I mean? The steamed fish was nice and fresh and was a great contrast to all the deep fried dishes.

I wouldn't recommend coming here unless you have more than four people with you. The portions are pretty dinosaur like. Even with the five/six of us, we struggled to finish what we ordered. We ended up with enough left overs for a second dinner the next day - for the three of us.
A bowl of sautéed veggies, fried rice with roe and steamed crab also came with one of the combos. These were the perfect side dishes. Veggies at Chinese restaurants are always my favourite - they're light and flavourful enough to play side kick to the main dish.

Fried rice is my weakness so I was all over this one. It was my favourite side dish and it was the  perfect accompaniment to the seafood.  I would have been happy just having the rice and a few lashings of fried anchovies. Just kidding, gimme all the lobster! 
The last seafood dish was the crab legs steamed with eggs - something I've never had before. I couldn't figure out if I liked it or hated it. I ended up just using it as a palate cleanser in-between the  fried lobster and crab.  Much like the steamed fish on our second visit, it worked wonderfully that way. I could have done without the eggs though.
The restaurant itself is a little crowded - as per usual for Chinese restaurants. There are massive water tanks surrounding the dining area and the tables are super close together. Keep that in mind when traveling with large purses and baby accessories. The large tanks are a little intimidating, nothing like being watched by a family of crustaceans while you rip into their relatives.
I would highly recommend making reservations and bringing a few friends with you. I thought ordering a la carte would be better but the combos are just a better bang for your buck. The dessert that came at the end of the meal was repulsive in looks and only mildly edible in flavour - hence no picture.  I didn't enjoy it both times.  I would definitely go back again if I could round up enough seafood lovers.  Oh yeah,  they only accept dolla dolla bill$ (cash only). 



Happy Eating!



Fishman Lobster Clubhouse
680 Silver Star Blvd
Toronto, On
Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant on Urbanspoon



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