On the Menu: The Claws of Attraction
High-end meets low-key at the new downtown eatery Crazy Lobster, offering more versions of the crustaceans than Vienna has ever seen
In all honesty, eating lobster in a landlocked country will always feel weird. But it’s this exotic creature that takes center stage at Crazy Lobster, a new eatery tucked into a few ancient arches on Naglergasse. The restaurant’s goal, we gathered, was to bring lobster down from its prestigious perch and make it a more everyman-type food, eaten without tablecloths and with a bib, the way messy seafood should be eaten.
Through the windows of the whitewashed exterior, you get a glimpse of a warmly lit, multi-level open space. But the interior is a cacophony of clashing styles: The benches are upholstered in teal, paired with brown and a delicate blue logo, with plants and spotlights placed haphazardly all around. If they were going for “upscale diner”, they achieved “country club cafeteria.” There’s an open takeaway fridge in the front, inviting lunch guests to grab a lobster roll on the go. At €24 though, it might just be the most
expensive sandwich in Vienna.
Just as you’d expect from a family-style restaurant in Boston, the main attraction is served on a paper placemat, with home fries, butter lemon sauce, an assortment of tools and a bib. While Bostonians might pair it with a Coke or beer, this wouldn’t be Vienna if guests weren’t offered an extensive international wine list, including open bottles of cava and other bubblies.
From surf to turf
But fruits de mer are not the only stars of the show. Besides bringing Maine lobster and Canadian crab to the alpine republic, the owners (who wish to stay behind the scenes) have also given prime placement to premium beef. Starters span from the quasi-obligatory beef tartare to the locally lesser-known lobster bisque (€4.90-€16.90). Aside from the lobster rolls, the lobster itself is of superb quality and by far the most fun: Served out of the shell, in salads, pasta and as surf & turf, there is even a crazy lobster burger with prime rib and lobster tartare – culinary insanity and genius all at once. Mains range from €16.90 to €28.90, and the sides are sufficiently diverse for the seaside-diner feel the owners seem to be going for.
Crazy Lobster’s chef David Kellner, who used to cook with Vienna’s famous Reinhard Gerer, understands crustaceans – and the marriage of low-key feel with high-end fare. There has even been talk of a food truck outside serving champagne and oysters. Downstairs, Crazy Lobster has a much more charming cigar lounge and cocktail bar, as well as separate areas for private dining.
Crazy Lobster certainly has a few kinks to iron out, particularly when it comes to service. As this review was being written, the extremely friendly staff did not yet have full control over the premises, courses came sporadically and often with inadequate cutlery. The food was, however, just what a lobster lover would hope for and – with the exception of a distinct lack of salad dressing on the crab and avocado salad – well prepared.
As an east-coast American, €24 for a lobster roll will always seem like highway robbery, but as is the case with imported nostalgia, it’s a luxury we like to afford ourselves. How many Viennese feel the same way remains to be seen.
Also, at lunchtime you can get half a lobster for €11.90, which is certainly a first in this no-coast nation.