Sunday, August 3, 2014

Red Lobster Will Be Going Up Scale

The popular seafood chain, Red Lobster, has recently been purchased by Golden Gate Capital, which plans to "elevate" the chain into a series of upscale restaurants.  CEO Kim Lopdrup told the press, the overhaul will begin with the rectangular plates their food has traditionally been served upon.  "Entrees used to come with portions spread out in separate corners in a sort of balkanized TV-dinner effect," said Lopdrup.  The new presentation style will be designed to mimic fine-dining, with fish fillets stacked vertically atop the pilaf, with a charred lemon on the side.

According to Lopdrup, "The actual ingredients aren't changing, but the Red Lobster menu will nonetheless soon boast $30 dishes."  Golden Gate has prioritized the goal of carving out a high-end niche for themselves within the realm of fast-casual restaurants.

"At the end of the day, people are not going to go a Chipotle for their anniversary or their birthday," Lopdrup says, adding that the low, "low-priced specials that we're not proud of, like 30 shrimp for $11.99, are getting the boot."

So basically, they plan to rearrange the food on the plate, charge more for it, and axe the discounted affordable options from the menu.

Yesterday, I decided to visit Red Lobster at 10330 SW Greenburg Rd, in Tigard, Oregon, before the changes take full effect.  The fishnets, rustic wood walls, and historic pictures of oceanic fisherman have already been replaced with urban architecture and modern style art.

I ordered the Crab & Roasted-Garlic Sirloin (peppercorn-crusted sirloin topped with jumbo lump crabmeat and fresh tomatoes in a roasted-garlic cream sauce, served with mashed potatoes and green beans) from their Crab Fest menu, for $18.95.

The meal began with their traditional Cheddar Bay Biscuits and a  wonderfully creamy Caesar Salad piled with shaved Parmesan.

The steak was cooked to a perfect medium-rare and was seasoned with a blend of black pepper and garlic to produce a nice savory kick.  Additionally, the sweet mixture  of lump crab & tomatoes melded deliciously with the savory cream sauce to compliment the steak.

As for the sides, the potatoes were seasoned with garlic and herbs, making the buttery, but soggy, beans the only chink in the armor.

Since I had to shop for my nephew's birthday gift after lunch, I accompanied the meal with a non-alcoholic soft drink.  However, a cold Boston Lager would have paired well with the meal.

All things considered,  I give Red Lobster's Crab & Roasted-Garlic Sirloin 8.8 out of 10 stars.

End Note: While I loved what I had, I won't be willing to pay $12 more for it, a year from now, just to have the chef put the steak directly on top of the potatoes.  Red Lobster has never been as basic as a Skipper's, but it's not New York's La Cirque either.  Red Lobster has always been a place where middle class Americans could go for quality seafood at a reasonable price.  If they discontinue their annual Lobster, Shrimp, and Crab Fests, and discard their affordable menu items, they'll lose many of their middle American customers, including me.

Choosing not to look like a geek, I didn't whip my camera out to photograph my lunch, but you can see picture of this meal, on Red Lobster's own server, by clicking on the name of the dish above.

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