by Greg Maletic
No restaurant with the word “company” in its name is ever good, or at least that’s my experience. There’s something going on in the back of a nascent restranteur’s mind that inspires a select few to include it. They want to demonstrate a kind of down-to-basics approach to food, sort of like, “when you come here, you’ve come here for good food, and we turn it out like clockwork.” And they go on: “Imagine us hard at work, assembly lines rolling, skilled craftspersons scrambling like elven sprites in a cobbler’s workshop, ‘Powerhouse‘ playing in the background, as we bring you food that is nothing if not flavorful, delicious, and appealing.”
I made that whole quote up, but I think we can agree that that’s the sort of thing they’re going for. At least, that’s what they’re trying to do. Instead, the worst connotations of the word “company” always shine through. Instead of “company” like in Black & Decker, you get “company” like in the Montgomery Ward electronics department. As a result, I shun restaurants with the word “company” in their names, and as far as I can tell there’s no better guide to avoiding lousy cuisine.
So it is with not a small bit of astonishment that I announce the discovery of a fantastic restaurant here in San Francisco that calls itself the Woodhouse Fish Company, near the Castro. Their lobster roll is the best I’ve had. And yes, it is the only one I’ve ever had, but you don’t understand: I’ve spent a lot of time dreaming of how these are supposed to taste, and this is better than that. That’s saying something. It’s so good that I’m throwing down the gauntlet and claiming it as the world’s best. They didn’t just stop at perfecting the lobster roll; they have lots of other appealing seafood, too. I’d love to try their fish and chips some day were it not for the fact that it would be keeping me from the lobster roll, and I’m not sure I can accept that.
It’s a tiny place, great for lunch, though they’re open for dinner as well. My wife and I went for the first time yesterday and liked it so much that we went back today for lunch to order exactly the same meal. That’s how good it is. (I mean, sure, I’ve done that at McDonald’s a few times before, but rarely is that with the same level of enthusiasm.) You’ll be tempted to go for the six ounce mega lobster roll, but you really don’t need it; get the three ounce version, you’ll be just as happy and you’ll have saved yourself seven dollars and ninety-five cents.
An update: On our way to Sing-A-Long Grease at the Castro Theatre last Saturday night, of course we stopped by to partake of the lobster roll. But something was wrong. It wasn’t just that the price went up $1.00 (to $15.95); when it was delivered it was significantly smaller in size. Not a great pair of developments. Panicked, I asked the waitress what was up, and she said that it had in fact gotten smaller because they’re now getting the bread locally, and that bread is smaller. “More authenticly New England,” she said, but it’s hard to imagine a New Englander turning their nose up at a lobster sandwich for being discomfortingly large. I suspect this sandwich is much closer to the promised three ounces of lobster than the previous incarnation, which had so much lobster as to provoke incredulity. I guess as long as they stay in business I’m happy, but it was definitely a punch in the gut. It’s not the bargain it once was, but it still tastes fantastic.