Learning About Lobster With Executive Chef Collin Crannell

Tuesday, 9 Jul 2013, 9:08:00 AM

Brenton Garen

The view of the Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Ocean from The Lobster.
Photo by Roger Morante
The view of the Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Ocean from The Lobster.

With sweeping views of the Santa Monica Pier and the ocean, The Lobster has become a local hotspot and a tourist’s heaven since opening in 1999.

Its dishes are among the freshest you will find and service is second to none.

Approximately 26 members of the front of the house are still at the restaurant after 14 years of operation and roughly another 20 in the back of the house.

When Collin Crannell joined The Lobster as executive chef in December 2009, he began a new tradition: printing new menus before each lunch and dinner service.

For Crannell, quality and sustainability are his top priorities when executing a seafood menu.

“We use the freshest, best tasting ingredients as they are available,” Crannell said. “For example, Maryland has had very hot weather, too hot for the crabs so production has periodically stopped. So instead of buying frozen crabs that are lesser quality and keeping it on the menu, I take it off until the best ones are available. Seasonality and quality is the base of our menu, I want our guest to taste that in each bite.”

Crannell spoke with The Mirror about the restaurant, seafood, and all things lobster.

Where does your inspiration come for your seafood dishes?

My inspiration for creating dishes comes from many places – one being the Santa Monica Farmers Market where the seasonal vegetables can create a dish instantly. I feature dishes from different parts of the world, although I tend to stay around France and Italy. I usually play off classic dishes or simply what I’m in the mood to eat that day. Luckily I love what I do so I think about food all day every day.

What’s the key to cooking the perfect grilled lobster?

The key to cooking the perfect grilled lobster is an alive, vibrant lobster, and a well-oiled hot grill. We split the lobster in the middle and season the lobster with salt and pepper, grill to a golden brown, turn it over on its shell, and finish with herb and garlic olive oil.

How many pounds of lobster do you use a day?

We use 500 to 600 pounds of lobster a day.

Where do the lobsters come from?

We source our American Lobsters from Maine half the year and Canada the other half. We receive great quality lobsters all year long, but in fall the weather is cooler, so typically they are a little sweeter because lobsters thrive in cold shallow waters. They’re transported overnight from the east coast in dark boxes to immolate a safe hiding environment and refrigerated at 35-38 degrees.

What kind of lobster do you serve?

Year round we use American Lobsters that have claws. October through early March we also have California Spiny Lobsters – they do not have claws and these tend to be sweeter and more succulent.  

Can you tell me about the local divers you use for local seafood?

We have two divers – Adam James and Stephanie Mutz. Adam spears Ling Cod, Sheephead, Rockfish, and Seabass, which we turn into a nightly special served with vegetables from our local farmers. Stephanie hand harvests beautiful Santa Barbara Red Sea Urchin, we open those to order and serve them on ice in the shell with Sicilian extra virgin olive oil and lemon.

You feature soft shell crab whenever it is available to you. What’s the secret to that dish?

The soft shells we use are from Maryland. We clean them, quickly dunk them into seasoned buttermilk, and then dust them with a cornmeal and flour mixture. They are then fried until golden brown. The soft shells are placed on a salad of baby kale in lemon vinaigrette with a Murray Farms cherry Mostarda, which is our play on the classic Italian condiment that is traditionally served with boiled meats. It works well with the richness of the crab.

Your sautéed Tiger Prawns on Ciabatta bread are a crowd pleaser. Where do they come from?

The Tiger prawns come from Thailand. The type of prawns we use change as seasonally available. The shells are removed from the prawns leaving just the head and tail on, they’re seasoned with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, sautéed with garlic, shallots and a pinch of chili flakes, then we then add brandy and prawn butter that we make with the prawn shells and aromatics. The prawns are placed on toasted Ciabatta bread with the pan sauce poured all over so the Ciabatta soaks up all the sauce.

A new addition is the Thai Inspired Grilled California Albacore. How did that come to be on the menu?

The Thai inspired Albacore dish was created from two classic Thai dishes one being the Thai beef salad and the other is the coconut soup. These are two of my favorite dishes when eating Thai food. I love the big bold flavors of the dish pared with the grilled rare Albacore.

The Lobster is located at 1602 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica.

For reservations or more information, call 310.458.9294 or visit thelobster.com.

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