Bite: Sweet lobster

Summary

Flemings are demanding customers when it comes to lobster; they want them small, compact and meaty

Alan Hope on Flemish food and drink

Two weeks ago it was Fish of the Year, last week it was Ostend chefs, and this week we complete the seafood trifecta with lobster.

But not just any old lobster. The Flemish tend to eat lobster from Norway, Scotland and – if you’re a customer of Sergio Herman at The Jane in Antwerp – from the Oosterschelde. That’s the part of the Scheldt estuary north of the islands of North and South Beveland in Zeeland, the Netherlands. It’s closed off from the sea by the storm surge barrier built after the disastrous floods of 1953.

But lobster we’re concerned with today is from Nova Scotia, and it was brought to us two weeks ago by the province of Nova Scotia, and specifically by Renee Lavallée, who goes by the handle of “Feisty Chef” online.

Lavallée is a Québécoise who now lives in the wild Atlantic province and runs the Shack Oyster Bar on the seafront in the capital, Halifax, as well as a sandwich place in Dartmouth, where they serve lobster rolls. In the Atlantic provinces of Canada and the US, lobster is cheap and plentiful – a food for the average citizen (probably because the rich found it too difficult to eat with any elegance).

According to Christof Malysse of the import business Lobsterfish in Deerlijk, West Flanders, Belgians are demanding customers. The Nova Scotia variety goes down well because the lobster is small, its flesh compact and meaty.

The Atlantic coast is relatively clean, washed by Arctic currents, but the Canadians differ from the Americans in the way the lobster grows. US lobsters tend to grow too fast, Malysse explains, so that the flesh is less solid, largely composed of water, making the yield of edible meat much lower than its denser Canadian counterpart.

That solid, dense character of the Nova Scotia lobster was revealed in the dishes served by Lavallée at a recent press event hosted by the province of Nova Scotia. Her amuse of tartare of lobster was perfectly capable of holding its own against chicons and citrus; a tail in a bisque monté au beurre with asparagus tips and fava beans accentuated the lobster’s sweetness; and a steamed baby lobster with melted butter and dill sported an accompaniment of mousseline of carrot so rich and smooth it very nearly pushed the crustacean into second place. But not quite.

Nova Scotia lobster is imported by Lobsterfish and can be ordered online from their headquarters or in person at their Brussels branch on Brandhoutkaai in the Sint-Katelijne area. 

Flemings are demanding customers when it comes to lobster; they want them small, compact and meaty.

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