159 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 645-6224

If you've ever needed a reason not to be a vegetarian or keep kosher, it can be summed up with one word. Lobster. Right now there's some guy with tofu on his plate missing out on something that would blow his mind. I, as you might be able guess, like lobster. I also like Spanish food. Francisco's Centro Vasco does both, does it well, but doesn't do it cheap.

Francisco's is in Chelsea and since I grew up right nearby the place, it'd been on my list for oh so long. It's a shame that on the outside it looks like a dump destined to give you and three of your unborn generations food poisoning. Inside, it's an old school restaurant. Old school like back when dining out meant either Joe's Diner or someplace where the waiters wore black and white and were all men. The dining room is dim and somewhat cold. The atmosphere is friendly without being inviting.

There's a neon sign outside of a lobster, asserting with great honesty that Francisco's Centro Vasco is, first and foremost, a lobster place. Pike and I came here for lobster and that's what we would get. Of course, it's also a Spanish restaurant (hence the pitcher of red sangria that we ordered) and they have all the Spanish dishes you would want there, too, so to start, I tried the Black Bean Soup. It comes with some yellow rice and diced onion on the side to toss in if you want, and I did, and it was good. Very good. Thick, robust, not salty. Pike went for the Lobster Bisque. He loved it and was aghast that I didn't share the sentiment. "This is fantastic!" he said pulling out a chunk of lobster the size of a wine cork. I thought it was a good consistency, but that they went overboard on the paprika.

For dinner, Pike and I began by splitting a Seafood Paella. One cast iron skillet filled with yellow rice, scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels, and lobster arrived at our table. It was fantastic. I was more interested in the shrimp and lobster and mussels. Pike's a clams and scallop guy. He drooled over them. But for me, the highlight was the rice. It was so perfectly moist and so perfectly spiced that you should be walking over there right now just for it. Don't even ask for the seafood, just get the rice. Of course, I'd be remiss to forget about the Lobster. Francisco's Centro Vasco offers lobsters starting at a pound and a half and they claim that they have lobsters as heavy as twenty pounds. Pike and I split a $75 four pounder. They offer it stuffed or unstuffed. We chose stuffed and regretted it. They offer broiled or steamed. We chose broiled and did not. They offer to cut it up or let you cut it for yourself. We decided that it was better for my shirt and tie to avoid having butter soaked shrapnel pepper the room. So how was it? It was amazing. How'd'ja think it'd be?

Dessert was a bit of a mixed bag. Pike got a coffee while I polished off the sangria. I chose the Flan, which was instantly forgettable. Pike had the Tiramisu, which was pretty good. We sat around an shot the breeze for an extra half hour before he headed home and I ran to a charity event filled with attractive doctors and whiskey.

One pitcher of sangria, two soups, one entree, one lobster, two desserts, a coffee, tax and tip totaled $200 on the dot. Oh, and yes. We are slobs and stained that tablecloth something fierce.

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