Perhaps seeing how Beijingers love their xiaolongxia
or small lobsters (which are in reality, crawfish), American chain Red Lobster is opening their first restaurant in Beijing at Taikoo Li this Saturday 13. It’s the second branch in China – Shanghai’s (as usual) opened at the end of last year.
Established in 1968, Red Lobster has garnered a cult following in the US, appearing in Beyonce’s song ‘Formation’ and more recently, in a Tonight Show skit with Jimmy Fallon and Red Lobster’s former employee Nicki Minaj getting eight million views to date.
We got a sneak peak at the menu ahead of its opening and as its name suggests, its main draw is its premium live Maine lobster. Prices ranging from 298 to 1,088RMB dependent on weight – 450g, 900g ad 1.3kg – and preparation style. There are five ways you can have it done: steamed, a creamy Thermidor, with linguine in a spicy tomato sauce or in a Mornay cheese sauce and lastly, unique to Beijing, lobster chilli-fried with cashews.
We’re happy to report that its staple favourites have also made it to Beijing’s menu with lobster bisque (68RMB), Ultimate Feast (338RMB) and its iconic Cheddar Bay Biscuits
served free with every order. The buttery confection will probably fly off the shelves like, well, Cheddar Bay Biscuits: it has its own dedicated Facebook account with close to a million followers.
Photo: Cheddar Bay biscuits
Other seafood is well represented, from its seaside shrimp trio (198RMB) – shrimp done three ways, oven-roasted Icelandic Halibut (238RMB) to the mandatory grilled salmon (158RMB) which the menu declares, is ‘fresh, never frozen.’ Surf ’n’ turf options include sirloin and ribeye cuts with shrimp (378RMB) or lobster tail (from 348RMB).
Photo: Red Lobster
It also has a massive cocktail menu with an assortment of margaritas (from 48RMB), mojitos (58RMB), daquiris (58RMB), bloody marys (from 48RMB) and a lot more. You should possibly give Red Lobster’s signature cocktails such as Shrimpwreck Mary and Lobsterita (both 68RMB) a go despite the variety.
We were also told that its Happy Hour promotion – one-for-one cocktails, beers and wine with special prices for bar bites – will commence opening day, twice a day, one between 3 and 8pm and then again from 10pm till its closing. Good enough to perhaps pack in its al fresco deck which seats 36. It will also have an opening promo for two surf and turf options for the first month of operations.
Red Lobster joins the ranks of chain restaurants that have been opening up shop in China, mostly in Shanghai, with varying success. Taco Bell crashed out of the market in 2008, then relaunched in Shanghai two years back (no word on a Beijing outpost), and now appears to be doing well. Shanghai’s Shake Shack which opened this January in Xintiandi still draws the crowds while In-N-Out Burger’s Beijing pop-up earlier this year resulted in snaking queues at 798.
Will Beijinger’s love of seafood and especially lobsters help propel the 106-seat restaurant to success? Watch this space as we give it a First Look next week.
Red Lobster opens Saturday July 13.