Few high-end food items are as maligned by discerning foodies as surf and turf, the combo plate of meat and seafood that has tragically been reduced on many menus to a pairing of an over-sauced filet and an overcooked lobster tail.
No wonder the 1990 Encyclopedia Of Bad Taste damned the dish as “classic kitsch,” one “guided not by aesthetic concerns, but for the sake of vulgar display.”
Kyle Viera, executive chef at the Oceanaire Seafood Room, recognizes that the dish gets a bad rap. “People assume that a surf-and-turf dish is typically just a cheap steak served with a frozen lobster tail, when it can actually be so much more,” he explains. And Carl Schroeder of Market Del Mar argues that “if you pair perfectly prepared steak with perfectly cooked lobster, it really is amazing.”
Some 56 years after surf and turf was first served, during the 1962 World’s Fair, chefs like Viera and Schroeder are giving a much-needed makeover to this dish previously favored by the indecisively extravagant. Viera’s version substitutes pork belly for the steak and sea scallops for the lobster, along with a celery root puree and baby arugula, among other seasonal ingredients.
Schroeder’s take—miso-braised prime beef short ribs with spicy togarashi grilled octopus and truffled dashi broth—is less about preconceptions of the original dish and more about recreating a cherished memory.