Malcolm Jolley has a lobster with the man who wants to democratize the crustacean.
When Jonathan Gosenhauer tells me he wants to democratize the lobster in Toronto, I imagine him organizing risks of lobsters, tank by tank. But that’s not what he means. What he means is that his new restaurant LBS (as in pounds) aims to make lobster accessible to the city’s diners. This mission is being executed in interesting ways at LBS, and I went down to the Financial District recently to find out how and why.
Gonsenhauser, who I consider a friend, is a Toronto restaurant industry veteran with stints at (the late) Pangea, e11even and Momofuku, where until he opened LBS this summer he was Beverage Director. Gonsenhauser is a sommelier, and there’s another wine connection at LBS: his partner is Will Tomlinson who runs the urban winery, London Cru, on the other side of the pond. The restaurant is on the west side of Yonge Street between Adelaide and King, in a beautifully renovated, high ceiling space that was before this a condo development show room (see photos at Pencil Design’s website here.)
We sat at LBS’ long wrap around bar. Gonsenhauser explained he wanted one of the city’s largest, which wraps around in a narrow elongated horseshoe, so the view of the diners would be other diners and not a row of bottles. Gonsenhauser particularly, he told me, wants to appeal to single diners, looking for a lively space.
And the food? Gonsenhauser told me, “The concept is the democratization of lobster. We want to fill the hole in the market in Toronto for a lobster focused restaurant.” The menu works around four staple items, all priced at $22: a pound and a quarter sized lobster, a lobster roll, a lobster salad and a burger. (LBS is also an acronym for ‘lobster, salad, burger’, as well as the proper term for an underwater pen in which caught live lobsters are kept.) Gonsenhauser said the menu was purposefully streamlined to offer guests, especially at lunch, an expedited service. There is also a surf’n’turf option and other things, like oysters.
Not long after I sat down with Gonsenhauser, chef Patrick Holland presented me with the lobster roll – purely for investigative purposes, of course. Gonsenhauser explained, “What’s really important for us with the lobster roll is that there is no other filler other than lobster; lobster is the filler.” The lobster is sourced from a single supplier in Nova Scotia. Sure enough, the roll was all big hunk of lobster in a mayonnaise with a few chives sprinkled on top. The coup de grace was the bun: griddled in butter on both sides, like a grilled cheese, but just enough so the exterior had crunch but the crumb was warm soft and doughy. It was good. It came with the standard sides of a refreshing side salad of young greens and fries. The fries had a tangy element, and Gonsenhauser explained that they are given a vinegar solution bath as part of the process.
As one would expect from a restaurant opened by former sommeliers, LBS has an extensive and interesting wine list. Of course, there is Chablis by the glass, by which the lobster roll did expectantly well. The restaurant’s location means they have two entrances: one off of the street, and the other to an enclosed concourse that connects to the Scotia Plaza. There, they’ve put in a take out window where they serve Sam James coffee from 8:30AM. They also collaborate on desserts with Ed’s Real Scoop ice cream and Von Donuts, to make a signature “sando”.
Find out more about LBS at lbstoronto.com.