Sitting amongst the row of Vietnamese cafes where scantily clad waitresses serve up iced coffee to thumping Viet-pop music - sits a restaurant called the Boiling Crab. Word is that a Vietnamese family with Louisiana roots decided to open shop and bring some of the local cuisine to Orange County.
I heard about this place from a friend and was very curious to try it out. My parents and I spent a small time in Houston and my parents often lament the days of crawfish boils and parties with other Vietnamese families where lots of beer was consumed and everyone had their fair share of these "mudbugs".
My parents and I got to the place on a weeknight, approximately 7:30PM and the place was pretty packed. Luckily (as it would turn out later) we had a table ready for the three of us and we sat down. The restaurant has a charming decor to it, very much like a cross between Long John's Silver (think sailing rope and boat props) and TGIFridays (think "witty" and random signs hung throughout the walls). The space is fairly narrow with about three columns of tables running down the restaurant). There is a counter for to-go orders and there is a constant buzz of young vietnamse waitresses running around the place. I suspect one of the waitresses hooked her ipod to the stereo system as the night's music selections centered on neo-teenage-angst pop (of the annoying pseudo-punk variety, not worthy of Morrissey et al.)and select R&B songs.
The menu is fairly limited. The place offers four varieties of seafood - texas blue crab (seasonal), raw oysters (seasonal), crawfish, and shrimp (peel and eat). Except for the oysters, you order by the pound and the prices are subject to market pricing. Orders of 2 lbs and more include corn and sausage. Folks can also order sausage, corn-on-the cob and gumbo a la carte. Beer selections (bottle only) include Bud, Bud Light, Michelob, Heineken, and Corona.
Our waitress explains that her rule of thumb is a pound a person. You can have your crawfish steamed with a variety of spices, including ragin cajun, lemon butter, something with garlic or the "Whole sha-bang". I found out it doesn't matter what you order because you can always designate a heat level (we went for medium spicy) and that would result in a boatload of chili and cayenne added to the mix. We opt for two pounds (seasoned in the whole sha-bang), threw in a dozen oysters, an order of gumbo (with rice) and two Coronas. Note - no crab was available tonight (sad).
Oysters - from the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing too spectacular here. No cocktail sauce but there was something similar provided - although more potent in the spice department.
Gumbo - Slow heat gumbo - just as I like it. Seems a bit light in thickness but was flavorful enough. I think it beats out the Gumbo at the Gumbo Pot at the LA Farmer's Market.
Crawfish - The crawfish comes out in a plastic bag where they have been steamed and sit in the mixture of spices that you ordered. Once the bag is opened, the smell permeates the table and immediately, depending on your spice tolerance you begin coughing or you lick your lips. I took up a piece of corn and began eating it. It had been sitting in the spices too, and man - it was hot - but oh so good. I took some pieces of sausage dispersed throughout the bag and ate those too - average hot sausage, I doubt they were andouille. I then went to the star of the show, the crawfish. Eating these are rather easy, as I simply pulled of the tail - ate the meat there, and then opened the head for some goodness. The spices cling to the crawfish so it's hard not to get a burst of flavor with every slurp/bite. No need to further dip or anything - which was cool.
They gave you those cheesy plastic bibs - which ended up becoming my saving grace because I swear I was eating like a toddler at the table. Juice/shells everywhere, but the entire restaurant was the same.
I saw a lot of to-go orders, so I think the crawfish might travel well. I will definitely consider this for my next football game watch. As a matter of fact - there were four TVs throughout the place, so I could even imagine setting up shop and watching a few games at the joint myself.
All that food resulted in a $45 with tax. Not too shabby. I will definitely be back.
The Boiling Crab
14241 Euclid St #C-116
Garden Grove, CA 92843