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Eventide's traditional New England lobster roll breaks tradition with housemade mayo and a soft steamed bun. [Photographs: Liz Bomze]

A few weeks ago, I overheard a colleague raving about the lobster rolls at Portland's gleaming new raw bar, Eventide Oyster Co. "They're so good," she said, "my husband usually gets two."

That meant one of two things: The lobster rolls are really small or really good. (Or, option three, her husband is a good eater—but I'm just going to assume that's true.)

As it turned out, the sandwich was both small—though for the moderate ($10) price tag, not skimpy—and good. In fact, I ordered two, partly because it was small and tasty, and partly because Eventide's lobster roll comes in three iterations: dressed with house mayo, Hollandaise, or brown butter vinaigrette.

I skipped the Hollandaise, which sounded delicious for maybe two bites. Any more, and the ultra-rich combo of lobster, egg yolks, and butter might do me in. The leaner (#itsallrelative) two options made a good pair—one's cold, the other's hot—and allowed the kitchen to show off how they do classic New England fare, but also make it their own.

Replacing commercial mayo with housemade stuff is a pretty straightforward change, but theirs was particularly rich and clean-tasting—to me, commercial mayo always tastes a little cooked. In other words, it wasn't just house mayo for the sake of saying they make house mayo.

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Rather than drawn butter, the meat is dressed in brown butter brightened with lemon juice.

For the hot roll, instead of the usual boil-'til-it's-done-and-shuck approach, chef/owners Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley (who now also own Hugo's next door) par-boil the lobster, pull the partially cooked meat, and finish it in a sauté pan—for deeper flavor, supposedly. Once the brown butter-lemon juice "dressing" was on there, I'm not sure I could tell the difference, other than to say it was perfectly cooked lobster meat. But no complaints. It tasted great.

And the boldest move of all: They swap out buttered, toasted hot dog buns for homemade steamed buns. I can't say I preferred the flavor, but it made a fine little vessel for the lobster meat: warm and soft, but sturdy.

Eventide Oyster Co.

86 Middle Road, Portland ME 04101 (map)
207-774-8538; eventideoysterco.com

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.

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