So what do Phil Collins and seafood have in common? I was eating a fine dinner at 30-year-local Pelican’s (the Montgomery location; There’s another one on Coors, one in El Paso, Texas, and one in Oklahoma City, Okla.) when I noticed that the only background music that I had heard since I entered the place was anything and everything by the Phil-ster. When “In the Air Tonight” inevitably came on, I vaguely remembered that weird urban legend about how Phil wrote the song after he and another man watched his friend drown. Wow—just the kind of thing you don’t want to think about while you’re eating. I wanted to find a friendlier way to link the two things.
I have often heard of Pelican’s referred to as Albuquerque’s best-kept secret, so my curiosity led me up the rough-hewn wood planks and into the dark, nautically-themed bar. They don’t start seating for dinner until 5 p.m., but, luckily, happy hour begins at 4 p.m., and appetizers are available when the kitchen opens a half hour later. I had a seat, and sure enough, there was Phil to greet me.
“Now Billy! Billy, don’t you lose my number, ’cause you’re not anywhere that I can find you, oh!”
The happy hour specials here were rockin’ out, like a pint of Bud Light for $1.95, $1 off mixed drinks and their signature “topless” oysters for $.65 each. The appetizer menu was a seafarer’s delight, and included such oceanic treats as roasted mussels, smoked salmon, a Mexican shrimp cocktail, clam chowder, peel-and-eat shrimp and escargot. Oysters Rockefeller were on the list but temporarily unavailable due to the spinach crisis.
“Easy lover, she’ll get a hold on you, believe it. Like no other, before you know it you’ll be on your knees …”
I ponied up for the escargot ($7.95) and a “Piña de Nada” ($2.50) and took a look at the wine list, which was considerable. For the affluent customer, there are excellent bottles like Chateau St. Jean “Robert Young” Chardonnay ($60) with a nice orangey and vanilla nose, Saint M Riesling ($25), which I’ve always enjoyed for its peach and honey taste with a hint of crisp melon, or Cakebread Cellars “Benchland” Cabernet Sauvignon ($158) and its chocolate, cherry, spice and herby undertones. The rest of us can breathe a sigh of relief, however, because there are all the usual, affordable suspects with regard to popular varietals with names we know like Kendall-Jackson, Cavit, Robert Mondavi and Rosemount Estate.
“Well you can tell everyone I’m a down disgrace. Drag my name all over the place. I don’t care anymore.”
C’mon Phil—don’t be a negative Nellie.
My escargot came piping hot, and although it was a bit heavy on the garlic butter, the snails were ingeniously stuffed into mushroom caps and were prepared very well with no rubbery texture or gamey flavor. Dinner was a tough choice, because the fresh daily seafood included almond crusted halibut, sesame salmon, coconut shrimp with spicy raspberry sauce and piñon crusted tilapia with red chile butter. I ordered the Australian lobster tail (market, $29.95) with a loaded baked potato, fresh bread with whipped butter and a bottomless salad, which came with a huge relish tray of fresh-cut vegetables, homemade bleu cheese dressing, roasted garlic and sunflower seeds.
“Please give me one more night, give me one more night. One more night ’cause I can’t wait forever …”
I don’t know what he was waiting on, but my lobster arrived in good time. And it was a lot like me; reddish, plump and perfect. The beautiful red tail gleamed under a cloud of firm, luscious, snowy-white meat. This tail was all of 10 oz. and sweet as butter. I sliced off bits of lobster and punctuated it with bites of the fluffy potato, completely forgetting I live in the desert, light-years away from that bountiful orchard called the sea. I spoke to manager Carlos Alvarez at the conclusion of my meal, and he told me that the prime rib, halibut and salmon are his most popular dishes. Price obviously tends to scare people away from lobster, but as an every-once-in-a-great-while treat, you could do worse. Kind of like listening to Phil Collins.
“There’s this girl that’s been on my mind, all the time, Sussusudio oh oh!”
I asked Alvarez about the gratuitous dose of No Jacket Required, and he said they have to keep it light. I looked around me, and realized that this is an establishment that caters to the 40-and-up crowd, so it figured. And what’s the correlation between seafood and Phil Collins? There isn’t one, but with a lobster tail that good, they can play whatever they want.
The Alibi Recommends:
Australian lobster tail
“Lady Godiva” hot cocktail
“Topless” oysters, bakers dozen
Ranchero center-cut top sirloin
Key lime Pie
Pelican’s Restaurant. Two locations: 9800 Montgomery NE (298-7678) and 10022 Coors NW (899-2000). Hours: Open every day, happy hour in bar area 4-7 p.m., dinner 5-10:30 p.m. Price range: Expensive. Smoking on patio, credit cards accepted, booze, specials.