Fishman Lobster Clubhouse (Toronto)

Fishman’s newest location is also their largest: a colossal dining room that resembles a mini banquet hall with what seems like a hundred tanks lining the walls ... all filled with living and breathing sea creatures. I’m just glad we were sitting in the middle of the room. All those eyes on me, while eating, would have been unsettling.

As typical in Chinese restaurants, staff bring the live seafood to the table prior to cooking – the restaurant feels they’re showing diners they’re getting something fresh. It’s an act I’d rather skip. After all, if they really wanted to deceive you, they’d switch out the seafood in the kitchen since there’s no distinguishable feature once it’s chopped, deep fried, and covered in garlic anyways. Moreover, in the age of "doing it for the gram", the fad of hoisting the big creatures by the claws to take pre-dinner shots is disturbing. Yes, they're about to be killed, but shouldn't they at least die with as little stress as possible? Frankly, I find it cruel … *deep breath* … animal welfare activist rant over.

A couple of tips for first time visitors to Fishman Lobster Clubhouse.
  • Go with a larger group - 8 or more individuals is ideal - as their best options are the combos. Otherwise, for a duo, indulging in a lobster or king crab can get expensive as they’re $20+ a pound and they rarely carry ones under 5 lbs.
  • Order less than the suggested menu group size as they always provide too much food and inevitably will try to upsell you for 1-2 extra pounds since animals rarely all arrive at an exact weight. For example, for our table of nine, the special king crab dinner or combo G ($468), which is supposedly for 6-7 people was more than enough.
It starts with a big pot of boiled silkie chicken broth, the steamed soup arriving piping hot and full-flavoured. While a bit oily, it’s at least a clear consommé - a lighter start to the otherwise heavy meal.

All the “smaller” dishes arrive near the first half of the meal. Things like the deep fried oysters lightly floured and tossed in a thick honey pepper sauce. It’s crispy, but not overdone, and the sauce’s flavours were spot on. Although the actual oyster had a stronger odour than I would have liked.

Two lighter dishes followed. First, the steamed bass, which could be cooked a touch less, but tasted fresh and clean as the kitchen took the time to thoroughly descale the fish and cover it with plenty of scallions. To round out the meal, a sizeable bowl of poached snow pea shoots topped with goji berries. Normally, I would prefer the dish with garlic, but Fishman smartly leaves out the ingredient since it’s already so heavily used with the lobster and keeps the vegetables neutral.

Soon the fried seafood arrives. There’s of course the lobster: a behemoth 7 lb. tower (although in this case ended up being 8lbs) cut into huge pieces. While impressive to look at, a bigger lobster does mean the meat isn't as sweet and the claws’ texture is denser and harder. The claw shells also seem to have a stronger odour... maybe I just have over reactive olfactory receptors.

Nonetheless, the tail pieces arrive as baseball sized globs of meat – you almost wish there’s a knife and fork so you can cut through it like a steak and really enjoy the lobster. Even the legs become more edible as they’re thick enough to have meat in the spindly limbs.

The lobster tomalley is used in fried rice with a bit of green onion. The dish could use more seasoning, but our table ended up adding bits of the fried garlic from the lobster, which quickly helped spruce up the rice.

Personally, I found the king crab (6 lbs.) was the better of the two crustaceans – although there were mixed reviews around the table. Firstly, a king crab is naturally larger so the flavours remain succulent. Moreover, Fishman makes it easy to eat by splitting the legs’ shell so you simply need to drag a finger through it to get everything out.

Described as Hong Kong style on the menu, in Chinese this translates to bay fong tong. Compared to what I’ve sampled in the past, it’s less spicy, less saucy, and in in lieu of small fried fishes (or ground pork) the crab is combined with French fries – something I don’t mind as the toppings usually go to waste and I can always eat fries! However, it would be even better if the crab was simply steamed with garlic. Sure, it doesn’t look as impressive, but the king crab’s quality would be preserved and since the lobster is already fried, a steamed option would balance the meal better.

With all the seafood, we added an order of the diced beef tenderloin with garlic ($25), which really wasn’t necessary since we couldn’t even finish the rice. Yet, having a different flavour and texture was nice – the beef, cut into thick cubes, had a nice tender chewiness.

Although I don’t love the food at Fishman Lobster Clubhouse, I can see its appeal. It’s an excuse to gather a group of loved ones and share in a filling extravagant meal. Especially one where you can let loose, get in there, and get your hands dirty. 

Overall mark - 6 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4020 Finch Avenue Street East

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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