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Red Crawfish and Sweet Orchid, San Mateo


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Restaurants & Bars San Francisco Bay Area

Red Crawfish and Sweet Orchid, San Mateo

pilinut | | Aug 13, 2011 03:12 AM

Having endured a 40 minute wait (at 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, after a 40 minute drive) at Boiling Crab in San Jose, I was fully expecting that Red Crawfish would not be nearly as good. How could it be, since it was a mere 10 minute stroll from home? Good things don't come that easily.

But sometimes one gets lucky. Three of us sat down at half-past noon the other day with no wait and were promptly and professionally served. We had the dinner combination 1: garlic bread, sweet potato fries (we asked for these instead of the cajun fries), 3 lbs crawfish with 2 pieces of corn and 6 pieces of sausage, garlic noodles, and 2 beignets.

The garlic bread was served nice and hot, the garlic butter evenly spread on the slices of french bread, an auspicious sign, The garlic noodles were not earth-shaking, but quite good. And the sweet potato fries were nicely crisp on the outside. The crawfish, sausage, and corn arrived in a large plastic bag, soaking in the Red Crawfish original sauce, medium spicy. The crawfish, sourced from Louisiana, were fresh and sweet, and seemed larger than those at Boiling Crab; and I'd say I definitely prefer the sauce at Red Crawfish over Boiling Crab's equivalent. The sausage slices were quite tasty, too. Only the corn. which was the tough-skinned frozen variety was disappointing. The beignets, which the restaurant kindly increased to 3 pieces without extra charge, were a bit dense but tender.

How long this place will go before the crawfish-sucking hordes turn it into another Boiling Crab ordeal, I do not know. Probably another week.

After 2 hours of peeling crawfish, we were ready for dessert, so we rolled over to Sweet Orchid, another fresh new face on the San Mateo restaurant scene, and what I'd call a Eurasian patisserie. They have an intriguing and changeable selection of gelati. That day it included among others, salted caramel, cilantro lemon, amarena, coconut, white chocolate macadmia, and pandan. We went for the pandan and the salted caramel. I loved the pandan: too often it tastes like a chemistry experiment, but this pandan gelato was expertly done and captured that sweet, slightly musty vegetal aroma.

Sweet Orchid also has very good macarons. I've tried the rose, pistachio, and taro, of which I enjoyed the taro best. The macarons have a delicate crisp shell, slightly chewy interior, and nicely flavored buttercream fillings. Though I'd say Paulette's (as it was then known) macaron was better, Sweet Orchid's is good enough to save me a trip to the city.

We also got to sample the mocha cake, flourless chocolate cake, cheese cake, and chocolate mousse torte. I think we all liked the mocha cake, thin layers of chocolate and genoise, layered with mocha buttercream.

In all, a very rewarding afternoon.

Red Crawfish
401 E 3rd Ave., San Mateo
(650) 347-7888

Sweet Orchid
134 S B St., San Mateo
(650) 342-6700

The Boiling Crab
1631 E Capitol Expy, San Jose, CA 95121