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Yep, they fry the shell, too.

Image: Beth Levine

Those who frequent the Montrose area might be familiar with the "Whole Lobster for $19.95" sign in front of Jimmy Chew Asian Kitchen. You know, the one at the corner of Westheimer and Mandell that also reminds you they are open very late—sometimes until 4 a.m. Cheap lobster late at night sounded too good to be true, but my friends and I decided it was worth a try.

We showed up around 8 p.m. The space sure looks different from its previous incarnation as Vinoteca Poscol. Gone is the cozy, woodsy feel of the original interior, replaced by a lot of neon and geometrical shapes, and a distinctly '80s vibe.  We walked around a bit, noting there was only one other table with patrons on the restaurant side, and took a seat at one of the high tops in the bar.

Our waiter, also the host, came over to great us, take our drink order and answer any questions we had about the menu. And he quickly answered our question about the veracity of the deal on the sign: Despite the fact that the details are shared neither on the sign, menu, nor website, the $19.95 deal is only valid during happy hour, which ended at 8 p.m. After that it becomes $24.95. Also, both the happy hour and $24.95 versions require the purchase of at least two other regular menu items.

Though we felt a little bit like the victims of a crustacean bait-and-switch, we figured $24.95 is still a good deal and ordered two of the lower-priced options on the menu: the egg drop soup and an order of egg rolls. For our lobster, which is prepared in a wok, we were given a selection of three different seasonings: black pepper butter, ginger-scallion and sweet tamarind sauce. We went with the server's suggestion of black pepper butter. Our waiter was kind enough to offer us a sample of their frozen pinot grigio margaritas along with our wine and beer. While I love a good margarita, this was very sweet and a little syrupy.  

I really tried to like the egg drop soup, but it was not very flavorful and way too yellow for my comfort level. We had some trouble identifying the filling of the egg rolls. After a lot of deliberation (our server was unavailable for comment), our best guess was a cheesy Rice-A-Roni type filling. 

Finally, the lobster arrived. A whole lobster, wok-fried with the shell and all. On first glance, we were not quite sure how to best attack this plate. After some careful consideration, we each took a nut cracker and gave it our best shot. I started off with a claw. It was rather messy, with so much seasoning and the shell fried along with the meat, but I was able to get a piece of meat out of the claw after splattering myself with a few stray bits of buttered pepper.

I would like to say it was good. I really would. But the lobster meat was dry, shrunken (perhaps from the frying) and so overly seasoned that my MSG receptacles overloaded. We tried to get a few more pieces of meat from the tail and another claw or two, hoping maybe it would get better. It didn’t. My friend even tried to see if there was any juice in the head, but to no avail. Before we had even finished trying, our waiter had already brought over our check, without even offering us another round of drinks (which we would have gladly requested) to get us on our merry way. We paid (our bill was around $50 for basically Panda Express with booze) and went down the street to Stone’s Throw to drown our lobster sorrows.

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