Since pastry wizard Dominique Ansel trotted out his fluffy, knobby-knuckled pretzel dough lobster tails last week on Good Morning America, half the internet has described the new treat as Combos nostalgia and the rest has taken to calling it an engorged penis of Maldon-salted pastry. The above picture shows exactly what $8 buys you at Dominque Ansel Bakery (189 Spring Street, 212-219-2773) after you manage to get through the Spring Street storefront’s crowded doorway.
Thankfully, you won’t have to contend with a line: By late Sunday afternoon, the Cronut queue’s long-since dissipated into a chaotic corridor of stroller-jamming parents sugaring iced coffees, and Japanese tourists are depleting a counter display of Kouign Amann like they’re shopping duty-free. And at that time, the cashier is unoccupied and eager to dip into a warmer still crawling with Ansel’s viennoiseries du jour before a cop pulls up on your Honda illegally idling beside the hydrant out front.
You’re gently passed the rolled up sideways bakery bag with a handle on the jar of trompe l’oeil mustard so you know which end is up; this ensures that not a grain’s shaken out of place before you take a picture before you take a bite. Not that there’s anything delicate nestled inside that bag. As with the Frozen S’mores, Chocolate Chip Cookie Shots, and Christmas Morning Cereal, Ansel’s mastered repackaging nostalgia, but for once, the basics have eluded him — he hasn’t perfected the pretzel.
His lobster tail’s dense and deflated, possessing none of the obscene arch or bulbous cushion it presents in publicity photos. It’s tough to tear and tougher to bite. It’s flat and it’s hollow. A smear of peanut butter crunch is too thin to fill its own corridor and too meager to moisten its flavorless surroundings. The dough lacks the heat to melt and plunder what would better serve as filling, a finger-licking condiment of lush — if too cool and stiffly-whipped — brown butter honey cream that wipes out the chew toy’s salty-buttery gloss. What should be a salty-sweet, hot-buttered creamy mess is instead a stale, inglorious one.
The reinvented stadium snack has potential, and it’s possible to picture Lobster Tail 2.0 one day anchoring an Ansel concession at MSG or Barclays. But right now, this looks and tastes no better than warmed-over concession stand eats — and it comes with a price tag to match.