Though there’s certainly no shortage of restaurants in Toronto that serve up fresh and fancy seafood dishes, lbs. is doing things a little differently. With a double entendre for its namesake (it can be taken literally and pronounced ‘pounds’ or as an acronym, standing for Lobster Burger Salad), the new financial district joint is starting to make waves for all the right reasons. Chief amongst them being its innovative dining concept.
Coming to us from restaurateurs Jonathan Gonsenhauser and Will Tomlinson, the menu at lbs. features only four items (when it comes to main courses, at least) all priced at a fixed cost of $22. Straddling the line between trendy-casual and high-end dining, the menu uses fresh, Nova Scotia lobster and antibiotic-free Ontario beef to serve up a 1.25 lbs. lobster, a lobster roll, a juicy 6 oz. burger with five-year-old Ottawa cheddar and double-cut bacon rasher and a lobster salad, making choosing what to eat a fairly easy process.
“lbs. has been a work-in-progress for four years and our vision was an accessible high end dining and bar experience in Toronto – something the city hasn’t seen before,” said Gonsenhauser. “Like our menu offering, the entire restaurant’s approach is honest and straightforward, offering a meal and bar experience that is fun, engaging and lighthearted in a beautifully customized and stylish environment. How many times do you look at a lobster menu only to be turned away by ‘Market Price’,” he continued. “We founded lbs. to create a different type of restaurant – we provide the best and freshest quality lobster at a fraction of the price – ocean to table. Our motto is do a few things, really well – hence our four item menu.”
Occupying a gorgeous 3,700 square foot spot in the city’s financial district, we decided to check out lbs. last week to see what the buzz was all about, and found that if you’re looking for a luscious lobster experience, stopping by Gonsenhauser and Tomlinson’s new establishment is a pretty good bet.
With a beautiful horse-shoe shaped bar located in the centre of the restaurant, and a dining room that sports a playful yet elegant vibe, the decor at lbs. is immediately eye catching, as it’s a well designed and visually appealing restaurant. Not too fancy yet just sophisticated enough to give it a bit of class. Throw in an open-face kitchen, custom lighting and beautiful Group of Seven artwork, and you’ve got yourself a great spot to settle in for a meal.
Upon our arrival, we were seated and introduced to the menu, with our waiter pointing out the various dishes and explaining a little bit about each one of them. We ended up settling on oysters and lobster mac n’ cheese for appetizers, and the lobster roll and burger for mains.
Were they worth the price tag? Well, let’s dive in and find out!
Lobster Roll on a Buttered Bun (with pickles, chives, tarragon mayo, hand cut fries and salad with house vinaigrette): Lathered in butter, this succulent roll is all about the meat. With little to no filler here to take away from the taste of the lobster itself, you get a nice, plump helping of meat upon every bite. It may be too butter-y for some, but if you’re alright with the extra calories, prepare for a delicious sandwich that will undoubtedly hit the spot for those in need of a lobster fix. Throw in some crispy, perfectly seasoned fries with truffle aioli on the side and you have an indulgent, guilty pleasure of a dish.
Premium Burger (with 6oz angus brisket, horseradish mustard, pickles, 5yr old cheddar, double cut rasher bacon, lobster, hand cut fries and salad with house vinaigrette): This 6-ounce patty was as juicy as burgers get when it arrived to the table, sitting on a heavily buttered bun. Chunky pieces of lobster accompanied the burger while the aged cheddar wrapped it all together in a warm blanket of tastiness. The rest of the toppings, particularly the rasher-style bacon and house-made pickles, added a lot to the burger as well and all combined for a pleasant culinary experience.
That being said, there was one thing that dampened the dish a bit, and that was the fact that the bun just couldn’t stay in tact, as it slowly turned soggy from the juiciness of the burger, coming apart more and more with each bite.
Oysters (with lemon, cocktail sauce and horseradish.): Nothing out of the ordinary here – just six fresh oysters served with some horseradish, cocktail sauce and lemon. Simple, smooth and to the point.
Truffled Lobster Mac N’ Cheese: Cheesy and creamy, just the way we like it, this starter was undoubtedly a highlight. With tender pieces of lobster meat strewn throughout and soft noodles smothered in cheese, it was love at first bite when this appetizer hit our mouths. It’s a bit heavy, to be sure, but the title of the dish says it all – you should know what you’re in for here.
Overall, our experience at lbs. was certainly a pleasant one, make no mistake about it. The food was tasty, the service excellent and the vibe welcoming. And while I understand that the slightly high price tags are likely in place to cater to the financial district of the city, it’s hard to argue that the entrées are worth the $22 (plus tax) – as good as they may be. Any burger or lobster roll priced at that point better be exemplary, and while what lbs. served up was certainly tasty, neither dish was noticeably better than the competition.
That, combined with the abundance of calories that come with most of the items on the menu means that Gonsenhauser and Tomlinson’s restaurant certainly won’t be for everyone. Still, for a once in a while lobster fix, you can’t go wrong here. Anything more than that though will just put too much of a dent in the wallet and a few too many unwanted pounds on.
All photos by Matt Joseph unless otherwise noted.