SINGAPORE — There’s a popular saying: Never meet your heroes because they’re sure to disappoint. In some way, this applies very much to food too as evidenced by the countless times I’ve been let down by a much-raved overseas food franchise planting their seeds for the first time outside of Southeast Asia, in metropolitan Singapore.
Because, honestly, where better to set up shop than on this sunny island state of 6 million-something residents with a plethora of food options and where the length of the queue measures the success of an establishment. In this case, longer is indeed better—or so I’ve been told.
I reminisce and revisit expectations because I find myself currently at a crossroad upon visiting Luke’s Lobster, which has since set up shop at the highly visible, high foot traffic area of Isetan Scotts at Shaw Orchard.
This is Luke’s first outfit outside of America and Japan, and so, understandably, the stakes are high. It is also several steps away from Leckerbaer, which I’ve recently reviewed—its proximity no mere coincidence as both Luke’s and Leckerbaer were brought to Singapore by CEO of Caerus Holdings, Vijay K. Pillai.
The 17-seater, safe-distancing approved, open concept eatery is decked out like a shack—primarily dominated by light wood countertops and black trimmings. There’s a funky neon sign by the corner that is so beautifully out of place in this setting which I gather will make for some lovely feeling-feeling shots as its light falls on the face.
For their initial opening, Luke’s is offering a lean menu of six food items coupled with a selection of Little Creatures IPA beers and cold brew tea. The lobsters here are from Maine, and like the crabs and shrimp, are sustainably sourced and traceable from ocean to plate. They take environmental consciousness here very seriously, which is why it pains me to say that, unfortunately, the rolls did not live up to the levels I expected of seafood this decadent and at prices, I would consider premium.
There’s a selection of three rolls to indulge in—Lobster Roll (S$25.50), Crab Roll (S$23.50) and Shrimp Roll (S$21.50). The fillings are very generous to the point of overflowing off the top of the split-top buns—it can and will get gloriously messy.
Behind the counter, these buns are buttered and griddle, almost too generously at times that it overpowers the mild-tasting seafood. I find this mildness quite perplexing, especially when there’s a certain expectation with seafood like this to be overflowing with brininess and an unmistakable taste of the sea.
Instead, taste-wise, I can barely distinguish one roll from the other, especially between the crab and the shrimp. It helps though that texturally, lobster, shrimp, and crab are on quite opposing ends of the seafood spectrum which makes that identifier more within reach. The fillings are also served chilled, which, against the warm toasty bun, is just a little confusing.
This unfortunate turn of event is further exacerbated by the same finishing treatments afforded to all three varieties—mayo, lemon-butter baste, and the brand’s proprietary seasoning of oregano, sea salt, and garlic powder. It all becomes rather homogenous quite quickly. A friend remarked, “All I taste is butter and bread.” Yikes.
But not all hope is lost, fortunately. I also tried the Lobster Bisque (S$12.90) and Clam Chowder (S$11.50) and found both to be bold and impressively full of flavours. I especially liked the Clam Chowder, which is textural heaven with its chunks of clams and potatoes that seems to be equal in quantity to the chowder itself.
The Lobster Bisque is a worthy bowl of brininess but can quickly get overpowering if it’s not shared. It’s the type of goodness that should be enjoyed with a friend. Apart from offering the individual rolls, there’s also a Luke’s Trio (S$33.50) sampler option—three half portion sizes of the full-sized rolls—which I strongly suggest you get.
Having never visited the USA or Japan outfits, I approach this review without the burden of bias or nostalgia. Perhaps it’s just my perception of how I expected lobster to taste, especially since my work as a food writer has, fortunately, afforded me the luxury of sampling some of the best versions at almost a similar price point.
Or maybe, I too am taken in by the hype and unconsciously setting my expectations much too high for simple kiosk fare that has earned some rather rave reviews online. But beyond taste, I know and understand that food can be a succinct conduit for memories.
If Luke’s Lobsters held special meaning for you during your travels abroad, then surely its arrival on our shores would find a place in your heart—don’t let anyone or this review tell you otherwise.
Website | 350 Orchard Road #01-K4, Shaw House Isetan Scotts S238868
Daily: 10am - 9pm
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