Note: Please welcome new Boston correspondent Liz Bomze! She will be chiming in about the city's best and most iconic dishes. Today's inaugural column is brought to you by the Atlantic Ocean, the letter "L," and a little childhood nostalgia. Take it away, Liz! —The Mgmt.
When I was a kid, my parents and I made annual summertime trips to Boston—visits that, I later realized, were partially driven by a chance for me to ride in a swan boat and visit the Mallard statues in the Public Garden, and very much motivated by a few must-try restaurants my dad had gotten wind of back in Philly. Keep in mind that this was the 1980s; not that the Mid-Atlantic didn't have its fair share of haute cuisine, but that caliber of cooking paired with ultra-fresh Atlantic seafood was too strong a draw for my family not to make the detour from our final destination on the Massachusetts shoreline.
Jasper's, the eponymous North End venue on the water owned by chef Jasper White, became a family favorite, and for one dish in particular: the pan-roasted lobster with chervil and chives. When we'd been storing up our annual excitement for a typical Yankee platter—boiled with drawn butter, baked potato, coleslaw, plastic bib, wet naps—this interpretation was shellfish nirvana.
The one-and-a-half to two-pound lobster, which was split into six pieces, seared (shell-on) in a white-hot skillet; broiled with its roe and tomalley until bright red and charred in spots; splashed with bourbon and flambéed; and finally doused in a buttery pan sauce made faintly sweet and briny with the booze and lobster guts, respectively, and flecked with minced fresh herbs. Needless to say, there were other, really stunning dishes on the menu—but I don't remember any of them.
But in the mid-1990s, disaster struck.
Jasper closed his restaurant, and with it, I figured, went the greatest lobster dish there ever was. Until 2000.
After a few years spent writing cookbooks and doing some restaurant consulting, Jasper opened the first of his ultra-casual, picnic-y Summer Shack restaurants on the outskirts of Cambridge. (He's since opened more locations in Boston, Mohegan Sun, Hingham, and real shack on one of the Boston Harbor Islands.) No more intimate dining with white tablecloths and highfalutin fare; he traded that stuff in for checkered butcher paper, plastic baskets filled with cornbread, and a dining room that accommodates 300 people.
There was just one very important holdover from the old days—the pan-roasted lobster. It's still considered the signature house dish, and when I ate it just this past week, I couldn't help but notice that most of the other diners around me were also elbow-deep in butter-chervil sauce, sucking claw and tail meat from the bright red shells. Extra wet naps encouraged.
Jasper's Summer Shack
149 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, MA 02140; 617-520-9500 10 Scotia Street / 50 Dalton Street, Boston, MA 02115; 617-867-9955 1 Mohegan Sun Boulevard Uncasville, CT 06382; 617-862-9500 96 Derby Street, Suite 325 Hingham, MA 02043; 781-740-9555
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