Sunday, April 13, 2008

Red Lobster - restaurant review

It had been probably 15 years or so since I'd last been to Red Lobster. I remember not having been very impressed with the quality of the food, so it was not somewhere I chose to visit again, and no one in the interim had suggested a visit. However, I got together with a couple friends last night to celebrate a friend's birthday, and the birthday person had picked Red Lobster as the place to go, so I guess it was time to give it another try.

We arrived shortly after 7pm, and the parking lot was extremely crowded, but we were lucky to find one open space. There were quite a number of people waiting for a table, but when we checked in, we were told the wait was about 15 minutes, so that didn't seem too long. There was quite a bit of seating in the lobby, and there was also a tank of lobsters on display, so we chatted and watched the lobsters scrabble around their tank until our pager was activated.

One of our friends mentioned later that there was some weird policy where the next table of diners is called up before their table is actually ready. The plates would already have been cleared, but the previous party would still be at the table, perhaps still paying the check. The next party would be called and asked to stand in the small area between the lobby and the dining room, and then once the previous party actually got up from the table and left and the table was re-set, the next party would then be seated. We all thought that seemed to be a strange policy.

In any case, we were shortly seated and given menus to peruse, and then our server came to take our drink orders.

As you'd expect, the menu is heavy on seafood items, though they do have a couple of chicken and steak entrees as well. They also have an extensive daily fresh fish menu, prepared one of four ways to your choosing. I was especially impressed that they had the fresh fish information for the specific location posted on the website when I had looked earlier in the day.

While there were a number of things on the menu that looked good to me, I ultimately decided on one of the two fresh fish offerings. I couldn't decide between the mahi mahi and the pacific snapper, so when the server came around to take our order, I asked him which he preferred, and he was very enthusiastic about the mahi mahi, so I chose that, broiled and lightly seasoned, which is my preferred preparation. The fresh fish entree comes with a side of broccoli and an additional side as well as a choice of garden salad or caesar salad. (Most of the entrees come with the choice of side and choice of salad.) I decided on the rice pilaf and garden salad. Others in the group ordered the seafood-stuffed sole, a shrimp dish and a make-your-own-combination dish. We also ordered the lobster, crab and seafood-stuffed mushrooms (fresh mushrooms stuffed with seafood, smothered in Monterey Jack cheese and baked until golden brown) for the table to share. The table bread was freshly-baked Cheddar Bay biscuits, which were really delicious. I also ordered a Bahama Mama, which was very tasty but didn't seem particularly alcoholic.

The mushrooms appetizer was brought piping hot from the oven, and they were very tasty with a nice dollop of the seafood stuffing on top, and we also enjoyed our salads. Our entrees were brought out shortly after that.

I was particularly pleased with my fish. The mahi mahi was indeed only lightly seasoned, so the taste of the fish itself was not overpowered, and the fish was very tender and juicy. The rice pilaf was good, and I found the broccoli to be cooked more than I generally like, but to their credit, it was not boiled do within an inch of its life, so it still had some texture and flavor. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals as well, and each of the dishes looked very good.

For dessert, a few people ordered the New York-style cheesecake with strawberries to share (which they all seemed to really enjoy), which the server brought with a candle on top, and other servers joined in a round of the "happy birthday" song to our friend.

Our server was very friendly and helpful when we had questions and was also very attentive in generally keeping our beverage glasses full. The decor of the restaurant is also quite nice, and the general ambience set a nice background to the meal. I was very pleased overall with the experience, and I definitely plan to make return trips.

Red Lobster
928 W. Huntington Drive
Monrovia, CA 91016
(626) 301-9225

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