The final restaurant from Major Food Group in the Seagram Building opens this weekend — and in classic fashion for the group, everything about The Lobster Club is over-the-top and more than a little bit outrageous, with a nod to the past.
The Japanese cuisine-inspired restaurant from the Jeff Zalaznick, Rich Torrisi, and Mario Carbone team, run by the former chef of Michelin-starred sushi restaurant Sushi Azabu, Tasuku Murakami, swings open on Friday with more of a lounge and bar feel than either of its siblings.
The restaurant on the ground floor of the Seagram building takes over the former Brasserie space, at 98 East 53rd Street. While The Grill and The Pool’s design focused on strict restoration, The Lobster Club’s design interprets history more liberally — using a loud array of colors that marks a sharp contrast from the minimalist, classic, and woodsy designs trending across the city.
MFG wanted to make the restaurant feel like it was in its heyday — the place where people hung out after closing Midtown deals or after leaving Studio 54, Zalaznick says. To do the $10 million project, they brought on designer Peter Marino, a huge luxury fashion world name who’s worked with brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
The result is a Picasso-inspired main dining room, lounge, and bar with swaths of bright colors: mod-like pink chairs, a Jackson Pollock-inspired splattered tile floor, and chartreuse-green banquettes with a blocky camouflage print. In a statement about the space, MFG calls a set of floating banquettes, visible immediately when walking into the room, “‘see and be seen’ tables.”
A more private section called “The Red Room” has red banquettes and red tile floors. It’s divided from the main dining room with a thick black leather curtain that they call “a sensual design statement”; diners with discerning noses will likely smell the hide as they walk past. “It’s very purposefully a counterpoint to what we do upstairs,” Zalaznick says.
The food, too, is a contrast to what’s being served upstairs at The Grill and The Pool, he adds. Though Murakami’s background is in luxury sushi, The Lobster Club serves a broad cross-section of cuisine inspired by Japan — from tempura to gyoza to robata grills.
One section is dedicated to teppenyaki-style fare, where people can order a selection of meats like a porterhouse, filet mignon, or whole lobster. It arrives with garlic butter, king mushrooms, and a bunch of sauces. Appetizers include both hot options, like coconut shrimp and chicken wings, and cold options, such as a lobster cocktail and wasabi oysters.
The sushi portion starts off with a slew of rolls, stuffed with salmon and avocado or fried shrimp. Sushi and sashimi is available from Murakami’s hand, but here, MFG “very consciously didn’t want to open a serious sushi bar,” Zalaznick says. People who want a selection have the option to order a plate of sushi, sashimi, or both.
It’s not traditional Japanese. The dumpling section has a shrimp har gow, a more Cantonese-style dumpling, and a Tomahawk ribeye is rubbed with cumin and a Sichuan spice blend. The roll section includes a California roll, the one that was invented in Canada as a way to introduce Westerners to sushi.
Theoretically, people don’t need to drop big bucks to dine here, Zalaznick says. (At least not as much as at the notoriously expensive The Grill and The Pool, where dinner can close in on $200 per person.) The more loungey setup means diners could potentially drop in for a roll and spend $18, though it’s also possible to make an event of a meal there, he says.
“It’s a different style of dining [than upstairs],” Zalaznick says. “It’s more communal; it’s more about sharing. It’s more of a party down here.”
The Grill and The Pool were two of the most watched openings of this year, and this will likely be the same. The Lobster Club opens Friday for dinner. Expect lunch and late night hours soon.