‘Lobster’ Doesn’t Always Mean What You Think It Means

·3 min read
langostines on plate
langostines on plate

When I see the word “lobster” on a menu, I immediately get excited. That’s why when fast food seafood chain Long John Silver’s recently announced via press release that it was rereleasing its fried Norway Lobster Bites for a limited time, I said, “Damn, fried lobster? That sounds good.” But then I reread the name of the product and thought, “Wait. What is a Norway lobster?”

I mean, I know what a Maine lobster is, and a spiny lobster. (We’re particularly fans of funny-colored lobsters here at The Takeout.) In childlike terms, both Maine and spiny are types of lobster with the big, fat, meaty tail, and obviously they’re absolutely delicious. When it comes to Long John Silver’s Lobster Bites, however, two things immediately raised my suspicions. Why is a fast food place serving lobster? And is the Norway lobster the same as the stuff I love eating with drawn butter?

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What is Norway lobster?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a Norway lobster isn’t the kind you were probably picturing. Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, one of the largest institutes of its kind in Europe, says Norway lobsters are otherwise known as scampi, Dublin Bay prawn, or the term I’m most familiar with, langoustine.

Whenever I’ve had langoustine, I have been smitten, just not in the same way I love a good ol’ Maine lobster. They’re much smaller and look a lot more like an elongated shrimp with pinchers than they do a big fat Maine or spiny lobster.

And they are indeed on the shrimpier side of shellfish. While a Norway lobster or langoustine definitely has a lobster vibe to it, it’s still got a strong shrimp characteristic as well, due to the fact that its flesh is pretty firm. I’ve eaten them grilled, but I’m sure they’re just as delicious breaded and fried as Long John Silver’s is serving them.

The langoustine is a relative to the lobsters we know and love, and thereby can be classified as such. So Long John Silver’s isn’t wrong in using the word “lobster” in its marketing, but you’re definitely getting something cheaper than the name might imply. Whether you feel like you’re getting an inferior product is up to you and your palate to decide.

When you see “lobster” on a menu, pay attention

Other restaurant chains have previously gotten in trouble for conveniently dropping the “Norway” part of the name and simply identifying langoustines as “lobster.” You could argue that customers trying to make informed purchasing decisions are misled by the broader term.

In 2016, Red Lobster got in hot water (pun intended) for not being entirely clear about the distinction in its lobster bisque, reports Business Insider. The chain eventually decided to be more specific about what was in it, noting the variety of lobsters that comprise the menu. Notice that one of Red Lobster’s current appetizers is specifically called “Lobster and Langostino Pizza,” delineating the two.

Does this mean you should avoid Norway lobster? Not at all. Like many other varieties of shellfish, langoustines are amazing when prepared correctly. When they’re called by that name, it’s easier to identify them on a menu—and in my mind, that kind of clarification is the mark of a trustworthy restaurant. No matter where you go to enjoy your seafood, make sure you know how to read the fine print.