Lobster rolls, lobster bisque, and New England clam chowder can evoke memories of cool summer evenings on the Cape; pulling up traps from the frigid waters on Penobscot Bay at sunrise in a dinged-up lobster boat captained by a grizzled old sea dog; relaxing on a weatherbeaten porch along the northern Atlantic coast and biting into the sweet, cold claw meat of a freshly caught Maine lobster.
Mustafa Döş, owner of Mu's Lobster Roll, doesn't have those memories. He grew up in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, an ancient but sprawling concrete city where lobster as we know it here in the States — the sweet large crustacean Homarus that lives in the northern Atlantic Ocean — is not native. Not that that has any importance to Döş whatsoever. "I don't think it matters," Mu (as he prefers to be called) said. "I think if you really love something, it doesn't matter where you're from." He is absolutely right. And to prove it, he makes fantastic, generous lobster rolls and some of the tastiest New England clam chowder you'll find in this city.
Turkey, which is lapped by the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Black Sea to the north, is known culinarily for its different mezes, various stews, koftas, and, of course, the döner kebab — meat cooked on a spit that is served in a flatbread. You won't easily find lobster and when you can, it's exorbitantly expensive. Mu came to the United States roughly 20 years ago and tasted lobster for the first time shortly after landing in San Diego. It was an eye-opening experience. "It was so sweet and delicious," he said. "I had never had anything like it."
His lobster venture is relatively new — it's roughly two years old — and he hasn't always worked in the local food industry. His current business model entails him doing mostly catering gigs and setting up at various farmer's markets throughout town. Prior to working in lobster, he owned a chicken truck. And before he immigrated to the States, he worked extensively in kitchens in Turkey and Bulgaria.
The lobster roll ($14 à la carte) is a thing of beauty in its simplicity. There's no goopy mayo, no celery, and no fillers. It's just a very generous portion of Maine lobster claw meat served in a toasted, buttered split-top bun. The meat tastes like it's been tossed in a little butter and sprinkled with a seasoning mixture (which I surmise is a combination of pepper, celery salt, and Old Bay) but had very little else done to it. It comes with a lemon wedge and some potato chips. The meat is airy and sweet, and works wonderfully with the warm, slightly browned, heavily buttered roll (there is a lot of butter on the roll, so ask for light butter if that bothers you).
The roll is a thing of beauty in its simplicity
Mu also serves soups, which are as good as the lobster rolls, if not better. The lobster bisque is a paragon of rich complexity. It's smooth and sweet, tasting of lobster meat and cream sherry. The New England clam chowder also shines: creamy and comforting, it's speckled with herbs, celery, and bacon. Mu is generous with his seafood, and there are a satisfying number of juicy clams (also imported from Maine) to complement the tender potato chunks.
I'm definitely stretching the definition of "dime" slightly by including Mu's Lobster Roll in "Dining on a Dime" but, honestly, this place is a real bargain for the amount and quality of food you're receiving. A 6" lobster roll with chips plus a clam chowder or bisque will run you $18 — which is roughly what you'd pay for a lobster roll by itself at plenty of establishments.
When I asked him about the source of his recipes, or where he learned to make such a mean chowder (he also does lobster tacos, salads, and wraps — and if you had a specific request, he's such a nice guy he'd probably do what he could to fulfill it), he gave a cryptic smile and said, "Oh, I don't know. I watch carefully... and I'm a fast learner."
Mu's Lobster Roll is a roving food vendor who sets up primarily at different farmer's markets. His location on given days can be found here on his website.