In a city full of seafood, is Red Lobster worth it? (It is.)

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WE KNOW we have seafood in abundance here, Manila, but let’s give US-based Red Lobster a chance.

Earlier this year, American seafood chain Red Lobster announced it was opening in Manila, through a partnership with the Bistro Group, which has under its umbrella the franchises for TGI Friday’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, among other brands.

At a tasting, Jarrett Whitlow, Senior Director for International Operations said, “We’ve just admired the Bistro Group for so long. It was really important for us to ensure that we partnered ourselves with who we felt was the best operator in the market.”

Red Lobster was founded in Florida in the 1960s. It is now owned by Golden Gate Capital (which incidentally, also owns California Pizza Kitchen). Its first international expansion was in Japan, and is now found in various locations in North and South America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. The 115-seater in S Maison in the SM Mall of Asia complex is its 750th location.

While it’s the fashion these days to eat local, and this seafood-rich country may be tapped for other ingredients and resources, but Red Lobster’s main product, lobster and crab legs, will rely on the company’s international supply chain to bring the goodies here. “For us, it’s really important to bring the wild-caught North American species to international markets,” said Mr. Whitlow.

TASTING
The tasting meal last week started out with the Cheddar Bay Biscuits, flaky and tasty, and offered with continuous refills.




While this reporter can live without the Seaside Nachos (with Japanese mayonnaise and katsuboshi flakes) and the pizzas, and the honey and blue cheese salad, and the clam chowder, I can say that the wait for the lobster and the Alaskan Snow Crab legs, both in the Ultimate Feast, was well worth it. Coming out of the shell, fresh, sweetish, and tender, it almost feels like I ate it fresh out of a fisherman’s boat.

“Our North American lobsters are brought to the restaurants still alive, so it’s the freshest thing on the menu,” said Mr. Whitlow.

According to a release, the company “is committed to the advocacy of obtaining seafood in a ‘traceable, sustainable, and responsible’ method. All seafood are 100% traceable to a known and trusted source and from suppliers who follow the most responsible industry practices. Red Lobster is dedicated to protect and preserve the oceans and marine life for future generations.”

Again, is Red Lobster in a seafood-rich city well worth it? We would think so, and Mr. Whitlow pointed out one of their mottos, which was, “Keep the Maine thing the main thing.” “That’s the idea for us, is to be able to really be different by being who we are, and sticking to our DNA.” — Joseph L. Garcia