That is a terrible photo but no horrible photograph (or photographer) can magically transform lobster into small, thin, white shreds. That is a crab roll from Luke’s Lobster. And a Luke’s Lobster in Tokyo to boot!
Luke’s is a New York institution. Back in 2009 – ’10ish, people were buzzing about a lobster roll place that opened in the East Village serving incredible lobster from Maine. In 2009 – ’10ish, I’ve lived on the East Coast for almost a decade and visited Maine a few times.
I’m one of those weird people who prefers crab over lobster. (There’s a back story to that but that’s a story for another day.) However, when a person is in Maine, lobsters are the only way to go. Well one doesn’t really have a choice unless you’re visiting solo. In a group everyone eats lobster and explaining why I don’t really fancy lobster is too much effort. Plus, talking about things you dislike is unbecoming. The last thing I want to do, is ruin someone’s meal. So I am familiar with East Coaster’s love for Maine lobster and tried lobster in its optimal forms, but I just can’t jump onboard the lobster train. For me, it’s still crab all the way.
When we were out in the East Village drinking at Death + Company or Please Don’t Tell or any of the bars in that area, by the time we were done (and a little drunkie) the alcohol has an inappropriate way of taking over our stomachs, wallets, all common sense and all we want is junk food.
Luke’s is open late so when the group goes to chow down on $15 lobster rolls, I would separate from the crowd and head to Crif Dogs around the corner from Luke’s, for a hot dog and tater tots. Please Don’t Tell (or PDT as we called it) outings were the best because it’s a speakeasy inside of Crif Dogs. I’d stay behind then feast on more hot dogs, tater tots, cheese fries and other junk I’d rather not recall sober, solo.
So in my entire time living in NYC and the East Coast, I’ve never eaten a lobster roll.
The other day in Tokyo I was walking around with a friend on the way to dinner. Saw a massive crowd spilled out into the narrow back streets of Omotesando. And what do you know, it was Luke’s Lobster. I couldn’t believe it. If this is the same Luke’s from back in the States, I could finally try a lobster roll. I begged him to split one as a pre-dinner snack and before he could answer, we were already in line.
When we finally reached the take-out window, I immediately asked the gentleman manning the register: “Is this the same Luke’s Lobster from the States???” “Yes, it is.” he said without looking up. I think I caught a slight side-eye finished off with an eye-roll. Oh, silly me. Of course there is a Luke’s from NY in Tokyo. Pardon my ignorance. Sheesh.
As we were about to order, I peered into the tiny space that is Luke’s Lobster Tokyo and caught a glimpse of one prep cook in the back furiously buttering rolls. I took one look at the sad, limp lobster rolls lined up ready to be served and at the last minute, ordered a crab roll instead.
The lobster meat resembled imitation crab. I have a massive problem with imitation crab.
Anyway. After about 20 minutes we get our order. I took one bite and was confused. The bread was semi-toasted, temperature semi-warm with patches of not so warm. The crab salad was cold. Like, straight out of the refrigerator cold. Very weird textures and sensations.
The problem lies with me, though, because when I checked out Luke’s site, the description of their rolls is the following:
We make our rolls Maine-style — seafood served chilled atop a buttered, toasted New England-style split-top bun with a swipe of mayo, a sprinkle of lemon butter and a dash of our secret spices.
So this is what I learned. 1. the innards (crab, lobster, what have you) are supposed to be cold 2. New England style rolls do not suit me and 3. Blue Moon is a beer I no longer like — I forgot how fruity this beer is.
This place is super duper popular and people love these rolls. If you’re in Tokyo and have never tried a Luke’s Lobster roll, don’t listen to me and do please try it. Everyone — and I mean everyone — loves and craves Luke’s except me. I’m just weird.
Luke’s Lobster, Tokyo
Drop this into Google Maps ↓
Open daily from 11am – 8pm
*outdoor seating on benches only
**don’t know where they source the rolls and seafood but I’m 90% sure they are shipped from Maine.
Added: I went back.