One of my favorite things to do when my family comes to town is eat at fancy restaurants that I wouldn’t even consider otherwise. So when my sister came to visit earlier this fall, we decided to get together with our cousins to celebrate a birthday at City Lobster and Steak, where we had managed to snag a discount.
Located across the street from Rockefeller Center, City Lobster and Steak is accessible via the 50th Street Station on the 1, C or E trains, the 49th Street Station on the N, Q, or R trains, and the 47th-50th Street Station on the B, D, F, or M trains. It is also a short walk from many Broadway theaters and Theater District hotels.
City Lobster and Steak is big on the presentation. It looks like a New York restaurant from a movie, with big picture windows and a fish tank at the front. The revolving doors and steps up to the seating add an elegant flair. I could definitely picture some old-timey characters making a business deal at the bar. We were seated at a booth opposite the windows, with a great view of the various tourists—and their outfits—rushing toward Rockefeller to watch the Zamboni driver work his magic.
The service was professional but slow, even though we were one of the only full tables in the entire restaurant. Our waitress was incredibly friendly but not always quick to attend to our table, and as a result we ended up spending upwards of three hours mulling over the meal. In good company and cold weather, three hours was not an unpleasant time at City Lobster and Steak, but it would have been nice to leave earlier and spend more time at Rockefeller or the nearby MoMA.
The bread at City Lobster and Steak is of an unknown origin, and so I was not able to indulge. I personally think it’s really strange when restaurants don’t know where their bread came from—that’s like if weird bread just appeared in your house and you didn’t pick it out in the grocery store. Wouldn’t that be sort of suspicious? Maybe it’s a little paranoid of me, but I think restaurants should know the origins of everything, from the bread to the Bear in that weird girl’s bag.
As for my main meal, I spent a good time waffling over the New York strip steak and the salmon and finally decided on the steak. When I was younger, I was mildly allergic to shellfish and so I tend to avoid the lobster and crab and mussels and all those sorts of things. However, the rest of the table ordered crab cakes and seafood salads, so we definitely hit everything in the restaurant’s name.
The steak was tender and juicy, but whenever I have food in front of me, I slowly nosh at it until it’s gone, even when I’m not actually hungry for it anymore. Because our meal took so long, I ended up finishing the entire plate, including the spinach, which I would not usually enjoy. I felt sort of guilty for eating such an enormous amount in one sitting, which is why after I finished my meal, I found myself wishing I had gotten the salmon instead. There was no hint of dairy or anything in my meal, however, so while it was a little guilt-inducing, it was also relieving to eat dairy-free.
Though it was not my food, my sister ordered a seafood salad specifically without shrimp. She has an occasional shrimp allergy, and so our waitress assured us that she would inform the chef. Upsettingly, her salad had a multitude of shrimps in it—which one of my cousins happily ate—and while my sister didn’t have an allergic reaction, it was agonizing trying to find our waitress or a waiter to inform.
If success means no allergic reactions, then success. Because my cousins and I are like a bunch of cool friends from a sitcom, we have a good time no matter where we are eating. As with most places near Rockefeller, City Lobster and Steak is one of the more pricey restaurants in Manhattan. Our discount made it more justifiable, but because it did not apply to so many things on the menu, it was also a little disappointing. In addition, the service, while friendly, was nowhere near as attentive as I would have expected from such an upscale setting and from such an empty restaurant. The quality of the food did not compensate for this oversight.
A few weeks after this meal, I received an invitation from my aunt and uncle—a couple of my mysterious benefactors—to dine at City Lobster and Steak yet again. They were catching a show downtown and invited me to join them for a pre-theater dinner. The mid-week dinner scene at City Lobster and Steak is much busier than it was a few Sundays ago. This time I ordered off the prix fixe: jumbo shrimp cocktail, a much smaller petite filet mignon, and profiteroles that I gave away to my cousin.
Our waiter was much more attentive and even gave us some advice and suggestions for ordering. He double-checked everything about my order, and watched as the servers brought out my plate to ensure that I was getting the right food. The petite filet was a much more manageable piece of meat, and the side asparagus were more balanced. As a result, the dinner was another good experience, although for different reasons.
The two experiences at City Lobster and Steak create a sort of mixed review. Because it’s such an upscale restaurant and the service seems to be a wild card, I would probably never dine there of my own accord. However, if a mysterious benefactor is going to invite me to a allergy-friendly fancy dinner, I probably won’t say no.