Classic seafood towers — tiered plates piled high with luxurious, chilled seafood and various accoutrements — are getting a decadent redo, with chefs re-imagining them for today’s diners.
“When the tower hits the floor on a busy Saturday night, people just can’t believe they are eating in a plant-based restaurant,” said Tal Ronnen, chef and owner of Crossroads in Los Angeles, which recently added a plant-based “seafood” tower to the vegan menu. “It’s a showpiece, there to get people’s attention.”
The Crossroads Seafood Tower features lobster mushroom cocktail; fresh hearts of palm “calamari;” shiitake mushroom Rockefeller-style “oysters” served on artichoke leaves; casino-style artichoke oyster mushroom with smoked shallot “bacon;” fresh lychee ceviche; shiitake oyster-style shooter with a choice of vodka or tequila; and smoked carrot “lox,” with kelp caviar and almond-milk crème fraîche. The tower comes with house-made, anchovy-free cocktail sauce; egg-free tartar sauce and mignonette; and Parker House-style rolls served in a skillet.
“We’re always trying to re-create dishes people don’t think possible in the plant-based space,” Ronnen said.
The tower, which is priced at $95 and serves four, sells out nearly every Friday and Saturday night — the only nights it’s available. The tower will only be around for a few more weeks, until the Oregon-grown lobster mushrooms that inspired it are no longer in season.
Danny Grant, executive chef of Maple & Ash in Chicago, serves up a tower with a twist. Like a traditional tower, his Fire Roasted Seafood Tower features scallops, Alaska king crab, Manila clams, oysters, Maine lobster and Gulf shrimp, but they’ve all been roasted in an open hearth and finished with garlic butter and chile oil. The fiery tower is available in three sizes: Individual ($42), Semi-Pro ($120) and Baller ($175). Additionally, diners can order the “pasta back,” an off-menu upgrade of hand-rolled, shell-shaped conchigliette pasta that is served tableside into the remaining butter and shellfish juices.
“We wanted to create something that was different and tasted better than the classic seafood tower,” Grant said. “What better way to do that than with roasted shellfish tossed in garlic butter and chile oil. It really helps concentrate those delicious sea flavors.”
The culinary team behind the menu at the second U.S. location of Burger & Lobster in New York City created the B&L Tower, a combination of the restaurant’s namesake dishes in all of the menu’s iterations: burgers, lobster rolls and whole lobsters. Diners choose any two of four different burgers; any two of three lobster roll choices; two whole, 1-pound lobsters, grilled or steamed; any three of four sauces; unlimited fries; unlimited salad; and any four of eight specialty cocktails, or a bottle of Cava.
On the menu since the restaurant opened in July, and priced at $200 for four people, the towers have been selling increasingly well each week, a Burger & Lobster spokesperson said.
Chef David Baron’s fresh take on the traditional seafood tower at the soon-to-open, locally driven Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette in Marina, Calif., is called The Left Coast.
The dish is presented as a junior tasting menu on a plate, with about four to six bites, priced at $50. The assortment includes Pacific Coast seafood, house-baked Parker House rolls, furikake butter, pickles and house-made condiments.
Examples of some dishes currently on the platter include oysters with Granny Smith apple and finger lime; raw, marinated abalone served chilled in its shell; and cured wild salmon belly with pickled vegetables and crème fraîche. Toppings, sauces and seafood preparation will change periodically, and most preparations will be cold and sourced locally from Monterey Bay.
At Chicago’s Steak 48, the seafood tower components are traditional, but diners select the seafood. Options include iced Alaska king crab legs, super colossal shrimp, Maine lobster, chef Marc Lupino’s daily selection of East Coast oysters, and Hawaiian poke (ahi tuna or salmon). Each tower is served on ice in a signature oval dish with lemon, Champagne mignonette, creamy mustard sauce, house-made cocktail sauce and “atomic” horseradish.
Correction: Aug. 18, 2017 An earlier version of this story misstated the location of Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette. It is in Marina, Calif.