The Lobster Grilled Cheese at LA Cafe is $9.99. That’s the tell. The price of lobster fluctuates, of course, so with something that doesn’t go for ‘market price’ the only thing a restaurateur can do to protect their margins is to fiddle with the amount of lobster involved. Priced somewhere around $20 you might be confident you’d get a fair helping of lobster, but at $9.99 you know you aren’t in for too much. I still wanted to see how the whole thing worked, so I ordered it anyway.
As an ordinary grilled cheese sandwich this would be a strong success. The bread had a wonderful buttery crunch, the cheeses used played together well and brought a smooth flavor with just enough tang. Everything that needs to work in a grilled cheese worked. But the inclusion of lobster makes it an upscale grilled cheese, and by those standards it’s a failure. The lobster, first and foremost, was lost in the cheese. Without substantial, meaty chunks the subtle flavor of the lobster was completely overwhelmed, leaving you to suss through each bite, hunting for the lobster purely by texture. It was there, but with a few exceptions it was diced too fine to stand out. That, I imagine, is a product of there not being enough of it – forced to use a small amount and wishing to distribute it throughout the sandwich, small pieces are the only option. I found myself wondering if a handful of large chunks could have stood with some filler. Had I gotten a sandwich with a few large chunks of lobster and some artichoke hearts or mushrooms, would I have felt cheated? I suspect I would have considered it fair, given the price. Another option might have been dressing the lobster in lemon before adding it to the sandwich, hoping the citrus would cut through the cheese and let flavor of the lobster shine through. In any event, neither these remedies nor any other were present in LA Cafe’s Lobster Grilled Cheese, and so I cannot call the sandwich a success. It would work very well if you did more to highlight the lobster or if you removed it entirely, but as it stands it misses the mark. This sandwich stands as a strong example of what I’m talking about when I say I don’t hold it against someone for aiming high and falling short. Someone clearly wanted a grand sandwich here, and by one constraint or another they were prevented from achieving what they set out for. I wish them better luck next time, and I make no strong mark against them in my book.