February 29 – Surf and Turf Day
Well, this is a very special day! Happy Leap Year Day! As everyone knows, we only get a February 29 every four years, so this food holiday only comes around very rarely. And for such a rare, special day, it’s more than appropriate to celebrate a dish that’s just as special. “Surf and Turf” is considered one of the most decadent things you can order at a restaurant: it’s, quite literally, the best of both worlds. The dish incorporates both a seafood, usually lobster (the “surf”) and a meat, usually steak (the “turf”), and typically these two items are the most expensive proteins on the restaurant menu, making the Surf and Turf rich to the point of excess. A truly American invention, the name has been around since 1966 and is still considered a culinary challenge–both to order it in a restaurant and to put it on a menu in the first place.
While most places don’t outright call this dish the “Surf & Turf” for the corny associations the name brings up, many still serve it as a concept, a real powerhouse display of the best dishes a chef has to offer. Junoon, a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in the Flatiron District, puts its best foot forward on its tasting menu: a surf & turf combination of their Lobster Tandoori and Dahi Wale Lamb Chop. Both heavily marinated long before you ever make your way to the table–probably long before you even decided to eat the meats provided–the distinct flavors in each sample dish are rich and completely different from any other Indian joint you’ve visited. The Tandoori Lobster is milder than most tandoori spices to hold up to the delicate lobster tail, and the lamb is perfectly tender and blends well with the subtle cardamom and ginger spicing. The dishes can also be ordered separately, but to show everyone in the restaurant that you can afford a massive kind of meal, go for the sampler 😉
27 W 24th St (between 5th Ave & 6th Ave)
“It is, over all, very good. The tandoor dishes are delicate beneath their crusts: sweet lobster under a cloak of cumin, cayenne and lemon, with ground fennel […] Lamb is given a wonderful send-off by the patthar, a style in which the meat is cooked on hot stones.”–New York Times
” While both meats in the surf and turf had a tasty char on the surface, they suffered from the same problem as the kebab. Due to the style of cooking, you are going to be left with lamb and lobster more cooked than in modern Western cuisine. I personally don’t mind it because the Chinese have always overcooked lobster, but there are many who will not like the texture. For what it’s worth, I thought they did a marvelous job in keeping the flesh as tender as possible given this method of cooking, and the marinades really penetrated the meat.”–Chowhound.com
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Lobster Tandoori & Dahi Wale Lamb Chop – The crown jewel of the tasting menu. Both meats were apparently marinated for 15 hours. A decently sized lobster tail baked with a proprietary blend of spices. The lamb chop was also nicely marinated with its own sauce and came out very tender.”–Larry L.
One chef that stared down the face of the name “Surf and Turf” and reclaimed it as a mark of high-class cuisine is Eric Ripert, celebrity chef and owner of Le Bernardin. Here, one of the most upscale restaurants in the entire city has the Kobe beef and white tuna selection on their prix fixe menu clearly labeled as “Surf and Turf,” proving that the chef’s got some big balls to overcome the name’s stigma–as well as a dish that stands up to the schtick. Ripert does, in both cases: the delicate, light tuna pairs well with the velvety Kobe beef, completely tender and well-seasoned. The eggplant “fries” and anchovy sauce complement both meats, so you don’t have to keep your surf separate from your turf. Chefs always make a splash when they take a food item that’s normal, pedestrian, even mundane, and transform it into something elegant and upscale; in this case, Ripert has reclaimed the name of his spectacular dish and refused to accept it as hokey or an indication of poor taste. And everyone who tries it reaps the benefits.
155 W 51st St
“Finally, we had come to Lightly Cooked. Alan had claimed that the surf-and-turf was a signature dish of Le Bernadin. A bite of rich, silky beef followed by cool, refreshing fish was perfection. Escolar is delicate and delicious by itself, but it came with an anchovy sauce that rather bullied the fish.”–The Telegraph
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The surf and turf was an adorable mini version of the usually overindulgent and filling dish. A tiny slice of seared Kobe beef, adorned with a tiny green bean was served next to a small piece of escolar. It was the perfect serving for a 7 course meal, and both pieces were perfectly cooked with a lovely pesto and anchovy sauce that surprisingly complimented both.”–Stephanie N.
“The Surf and Turf: Escolar and Seared Kobe Beef; Sea Bean Salad and Eggplant Fries; Mr. Kaufman’s Pesto and Anchovy Sauce…When I saw the meat on this dish, I immediately knew I could never become a vegeterian – I am a faithful carnivore! The Kobe beef was so tender and juicy, I wanted to trade my seafood for more beef!”–Pam L.