Bun Appetit vs. Lobster Station: Which Lobster Roll is Worth Your 600 Bucks?March 4, 2018
Lobster rolls are among New England’s most prominent edible icons which, thanks to a number of local purveyors that’ve brought out their own versions, are happily available in Manila. Two in particular stand out: Bun Appetit, the independent seller whose sole current booth opens only on Saturdays at the Salcedo Market (aside from doing occasional pop-ups and deliveries); and Lobster Station, the relative newcomer that made its debut just last year at The Fort and is open seven days a week. But as with almost anything lobster, these treats do not come cheap—so which sandwich is worth the (roughly) 600 pesos a pop?
Bun Appetit (Php 620)
BREAD: A soft, slightly sweet and wonderfully buttery roll (seemingly brioche) lays the foundation here. It does the job of making for a warm, plushy bed that easily yields to the bite, and does not overpower the other components.
LOBSTER: You get a hundred grams of the lobster that comes at about a 1:1 ratio with the bread—they do not scrimp. It’s consistently sweet and succulent across our visits, so you know you’re getting fresh and high-quality seafood.
OTHERS: A good amount of melted butter gives ample richness, enhanced just a smidge by a most thin layer of mayo underneath. Playing up the classic American seafood flavor profile is what we discern to be celery salt or Old Bay seasoning, giving a welcome zestiness. Finally, a touch of lemon juice adds brightness, perking up the mix while keeping the spotlight on the lobster.
ALL TOGETHER: You get a most balanced sandwich, taking after the Connecticut style of the classic, that properly highlights the lobster. The bread matches the lobster in delicateness, while the other toppings are kept to a minimum—just enough to enhance the stellar seafood.
Lobster Station (Php 590)
BREAD: Lobster Station uses a roll that brings to mind a crustier pan de sal. Slightly toasty on the outside, it’s still soft within, but with a dryer and more rustic quality to it.
LOBSTER: 80 grams of lobster make it to each sandwich. This is less than Bun Appetit’s, but is still at a good ratio to the bread. In all our revisits however, the lobster meat feels a tad tougher, less juicy, and blander in taste.
OTHERS: As with Bun Appetit’s, there’s a good amount of melted butter that works wonders to enliven the flavor of the lobster. You get a touch of Japanese mayonnaise (in a greater amount versus Bun Appetit’s) which contributes an umami quality we appreciate. Chili powder sprinkled on top supplies a mild, peppery heat which somewhat helps cut the richness of the butter and the mayo.
ALL TOGETHER: Perhaps to make up for the (comparatively) poorer-quality lobster, Lobster Station relies on the added components, which come at a stronger, richer dose. Because of this, the use of a more neutral-tasting bread works to this roll’s advantage. Still, the butter and the mayonnaise tend to overpower; we found ourselves in need of some form of tartness to better even it out.
The Verdict: Bun Appetit
Bun Appetit’s lobster roll is a cult favorite for good reason. It might not come cheap, but everything—from the quality of the lobster itself to the exceptional way the all components come together—make their version a worthy splurge. Lobster Station’s, though a smidge cheaper, also comes at a smaller portion, uses lesser-quality seafood, and has a less-harmonious balance of flavors. Troop over to Lobster Station if you must have your lobster roll on a weekday (or if you’re craving other lobster dishes, such as their promising lobster aligue fried rice). But as far as lobster rolls in Manila are concerned, Bun Appetit is still king.