Oak Bluffs, MA: Raymond Schilcher's Lobster Specials at Lobsterville Bar & Grille
"This is chef, and this is his pasta," our server said proudly as he led Raymond Schilcher over to our table. I put down my fork full of butter-colored pappardelle, shook his hand, and told him I'd loved this pasta since he was at the Oyster Bar. "You must have been just a baby back then!" he said.
This was a few weeks ago at Lobsterville Bar & Grille, the Oak Bluffs harbor front restaurant where Schilcher, a veteran of the once-heralded Oyster Bar (and several other Martha's Vineyard kitchens), recently took over as executive chef after cooking off-Island for several years. The menu is big and crowd-pleasing, full of local seafood, chowders, and big sandwiches. But it's the nightly specials roster that has Schilcher's best work written all over it, including a few Oyster Bar classics.
The Lobster Pan Roast ($18) was the Oyster Bar's headlining appetizer, and my dad ordered it every time we went. (Actually, the Pan Roast was the invention of New York's Grand Central Oyster Bar, but the Lobsterville menu cheekily notes that it was "perfected at 'The Oyster Bar.'") It's a decadent, old-school lobster bisque based on good lobster stock, cream, and plenty of dry sherry, and Schilcher's always served it in a wide shallow bowl. Originally, that presentation allowed a few scattered chunks of lobster meat to break the surface of the liquid. Nowadays, it's a fancier updo, with a lobster tail resting on a toasted slab of bread, a nugget of brilliant red roe, microgreens, and squirts of chive oil. To my recollection, the soup itself is also way tangier than it used to be; it almost burns your throat at first, and then finishes sweet. (Too heavy a hand with the sherry, perhaps?) I missed the simpler original, but it's still a great dish. I also recommend sharing; the portion is so large and so rich, you'll never make it to your entrée.
I was probably 11 or 12 when I fell in love with the Lobster Saffron Pasta ($36)—a baby by some standards, I suppose—and was equally smitten this time around. Schilcher cuts the noodles almost as broad as lasagna sheets, just the way I like them, then glosses them with a briny, dairy-enriched lobster stock-saffron reduction. The lobster meat portion is generous (and should be for the price): multiple claws and tails, not to mention several pieces of roe that are best broken up with a fork and worked into every bite.
Welcome back to the Vineyard, chef. Here's hoping you stick around, and that you also bring back the Oyster Bar's Hot Chocolate Mousse bread pudding—quite possibly the best chocolate dessert I've ever had.
Lobsterville Bar & Grille
About the author: Liz Bomze lives in Brookline, MA, and works as the Associate Features Editor for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. In her free time, she freelances regularly for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and Martha's Vineyard Magazine; practices bread-baking and canning; takes photos; reads; and watches baseball. Top 5 foods: fresh noodles, gravlax, sour cherry pie, burrata, ma po tofu.