Seafood boils are all the rage now. A popular food trend that started in 2016 and saw itself continuing into 2017. So it was only a matter of time before the Robson Street area got its own incarnation of this seafood feast. A messy affair you attend with plastic bid and gloved hands.
On this night, I was invited to their grand opening media launch, along with a few other bloggers and social influencers. Tonight we would get to explore the expanse of their menu with our own two hands, literally.
As a disclaimer, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
The restaurant was a corner space. It was a well lit open room, that still had its new look and feel sheen. Seating was across booths with seats that looked like picnic benches, various wooden tables, and stools facing the back bar. There was a partially tiled section of floor amongst all the concrete. Like a geometric rug in their trademark orangey-red colour, and two tones of grey. The left wall was a chalkboard black. Painted over it were directions on “The dummies guide to de-shelling”. It was a pictorial of how to use their de-sheller tool, and the step by step way to break down a whole crab and a whole lobster. It was as decorative as it was functional. A boxed shelf added to the theme with sea related artifacts. Rope and fishing rods, lanterns and lures, and a glass of sand and shells.
Our service began with a grand display for photographic reasons. Everything they offered on their menu in full array. Baskets of fried seafood, crustaceans served whole, and sandwiches gingerly placed in tubs. We didn’t get to try all of it, but it was nice to be able to get a look at what we would have gotten if we did. I however will only be blogging about what came to our table.
But first the tools. The table was laid with parchment, not only did it help with the eventual clean up, but it was part of the charm of a get-messy seafood boil. To protect our clothes from the carnage we were each given plastic bibs that we tied around our necks. On it their crab with halo logo and their restaurant’s name underneath. This was as great of a branding idea as it was a photo op. We were also given plastic gloves to protect our hands from the soup and saucy seasonings to come. It was of great help to myself with my claw like nails, which is the reason why I typically don’t like eating with my hands. They were thin enough to still allow you the delicacy and dexterity needed of bare hands, but offered a shield to keep them cleaner. Though you could still feel oil and grease through their semi permeable layer.
To help in the process before us, we were given a battery of tools and a friendly team of staff to walk us through it. The curved scissors were helpful in snipping apart shells, used for the removal of lobster meat. The metal nutcracker was most helpful with the crab legs and breaking them apart. Like you would use a letter opener, you used the blue de-sheller. You place the hooked end in the shell and drag it to open and release the meat. And the scissors with a longer blade was specifically designed for peeling back the shell of king crab legs. Even with these in your arsenal, you were in for a fight with your dinner. You would have to work for it, and for those looking for a dinner with a show, this would be it. Watching your companion crack and struggle for their food in a wacky bib. Or better yet why not enlist their help and together peel it all before you eat. Although it is more common to crack and nibble as you go.
Most of the boiled seafood is seasoned in their original Cajun, garlic, and pepper sauce, a mound of chunky paste served directly over it. It is available in mild, medium, spicy, and their hottest: the “Holy Moly!” We were able to get a taste of the latter and test how hot it was. It certainly left your lips tingling from a numbing heat.
Our first course was shrimp, exercising the option to add on sweet corn. It was nice to have the side to break up the taste, as well as offering some sweetness to cut into the heat of the chilli. It came in a bowl and the option to keep it there or have it poured out over the parchment. We wanted the full experience so opted for the messier latter. They were easy enough to peel and soon we each had our own pile of shells beside our stations.
Another possible side to tack on are steamed vegetables. In this case, a container of unseasoned broccoli and cauliflower florets. Where the others were unimpressed by it, I found it a nice buffer for all the salty sauces, as well as offering a certain freshness that the serving was missing.
For the whole crab we were given a quick tutorial on how to open it, but it required being patient. This was the largest item on the menu at 2lbs. We had to give it time to cool, before we dug our fingers into the crab’s bottom and started separating it from its shell. Then one by one its legs were detached and you got to work cracking them open. We shared the labour and I was lucky to have my crab meat doled out to me by Dee of “Gastrofork“.
I took on the king crab. It would not only be my first time de-shelling it, but also my first eating it out of shell like this. With a larger surface area it was easier to cut into with the longer blade scissors. Although all it’s spines made getting a good grip a challenge. I loved the taste of this sweeter crab meat, in larger chunks that you could actually sink your teeth into.
The clams were definitely the easiest ones to tackle. Half of them were already out of shell.
Whereas the crayfish was definitely the hardest. And the one that Diana of “Foodology” was kind enough to de-shell for me. I personally stay away from crayfish as it requires so much investment for so little return. I say, save yourself the labour and pay more for a lobster with double the taste, without doubling the work. She did a great job and I was able to eat them all, one by one, bite by bite. At this point the others at our table gave up on cracking and were content on snacking on the below.
The onion rings were fairly oily, its slicked surface caused the batter to flake off the ring, leaving you with only onion. It also lacked seasoned and we found we needed ketchup to perk it up.
The fish and chips served in a metal troth were tasty. It was crispy fried fish with a flakey centre, accompanied by a side of chewy fries. Both served with some tangy tartar sauce for dipping. Pretty standard.
I am not big fan of yam fries, but they offered a nice change of taste and texture as a side.
I found the soft shell crab nuggets full of flavour and crunch, but a little on the over cooked side. It needed something creamy to dip into. to balance its hard texture and bold spices.
What we left was carnage all across our table. A mess for sure, but one as easy to clean up as lifting the parchment and crumpling it up.
The first time at such a restaurant is fun. The activity of scavenging through you cooked food with a group is an enjoyable experience. But outside of that, should you want to revisit the food and have the flavours again, there should be an option to have it without the work. An option to have all the seafood peeled for you and served plated.
And maybe the option to have other flavours of sauces. Or better yet, offer up the choices as a help yourself sauce bar. This way you can mix and match and keep flavours refreshed as you need. I am sure this will also lead to an increase in sales because you don’t typically get full from a meal like this, but you wrap up more quicker when you get bored of the taste.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
When in the area and looking for an interactive dining experience, they meet your requirement with plastic wrapped hands. A fun night with an array of different seafood options to work your way through. Don’t deny your cravings.