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Golden Crab House is the new offshoot of the popular PPQ Dungeness Island. When we were there on a Friday night in late March, the soft opening was in its third month.
Eyeing the three large tables pushed against the wall that did not look like they were clearing out any time soon, I wondered how long we'd have to wait for our reserved table. After 10 minutes of being ignored at the hostess stand, Spence headed into the bowels of the raucous main dining room to investigate. Then he beckoned us to follow him though the kitchen (stand back, hot food coming out!), out the back door marked "not an exit", and then to the right and up an outdoor flight of stairs. At the top we discovered a private dining room with two 10-person tables, wide screen playing kiddie videos (the little girl clad in pink at the other party's table was adorbs), and a full karaoke set up that went unused. Also the early arrivals of our group who had started to wonder if we'd every find them. The room was equipped with a rack of wine glasses and a sink that would prove handy for a night of crab-feasting. I was so happy to be away from the street-level mosh pit!
With only nine of us, we had a bit more elbow room. Felt odd to sit at a round banquet table without a lazy susan though and I did miss having one. We ordered the set menu for ten diners, $375, and while portions were generous, we managed to plow through almost all of it. One bag of leftovers went home with me, luckily run out to the entrance by our gracious waiter when I left them behind.
Green papaya and shrimp salad was served in two mounds buried in a blizzard of fried garlic. Imperial rolls were fried beautifully (lighter rice paper wrappers, I believe) but the filling was kind of odd. Five-spice chicken looked to be all juicy dark meat and had delicious crispy skin. Dry-fried green beans were kind of soggy but delectably seasoned. Shaking beef was tender, yet I would have liked an extra shot of lime for contrast. Steamed sea bass was as unctuous as butter in the soy sauce-inflected juices. Ropey garlic noodles were portioned into two bowls to make passing at the table easier.
The single peppercorn crab, dry fried in the tastiest of seasoned garlic crumbs, was delicious especially around the browned edges, but a bit dry. Piece de resistance was the pair of garlic roasted crabs, drowned in garlic butter and so succulent and delectable. And we put that abundance of garlic sauce to good use spooning it over the noodles and green beans for extra garlicky goodness. Dessert was fried bananas with coconut, green tea and mango ice cream.
A surprise dessert arrived via FedEx shipping on dry ice, from Ferrara's in Manhattan's Little Italy. Moist dark chocolate cake with layers of chocolate mousse --- heavenly! Another sweet was a golden Inniskillin vidal dessert wine contributed by Diana that was actually sweeter than the cake and not overpowered at all. A beauty.
My 2012 Schloss Saarstein Serriger Riesling Spätlese was everything it should be at middle-age. Edging into medium straw hue, flower and mineral-laden with shadings of white peach and citrus, and of course, the laser-cut of acidity that defines this terroir. One more bottle left in the cellar. . . I've loved this wine so much at every stage of its life.
Then a taste-off of 1995 Pinot Noir: Dehlinger "Goldridge" RRV and Joseph Swan "Steiner" Sonoma Mountain. Both of these 24-year old bottlings were originally deemed to be "earlier drinking" than their iconic producers' top cuvees. The Swan had been standing upright in the City apartment for more than year, and I was concerned about cork failure. Not to fear, Steve did a wonderful job opening the bottles this night using my Durand opener. Color was still strong, and the wine delivered with dark berries, autumnal scents, and impeccable balance from the fruit of then-young vines. Yet for as excellent as the Swan was drinking, the Dehlinger was so open-knit and generous from the get-go with bountiful bouquet and layers of layers of Pinot wonderfulness in every drop. That extra opulence and volume let the Dehlinger pull ahead in this contest.
Service was terrific. Right, I would not have expected this either, but true. To start, our main server offered to open the bottles. When I said we would open them ourselves, he said that he'd only charge us one corkage fee of $15! The staff were on top of clearing plates, dropping off more napkins without being asked, dumping bowls of shells, and delivering heated wet wipes at the end. And as mentioned earlier, our server brought our forgotten bag of leftovers down the stairs and to the front. Glad to be reunited, as I enjoyed two lunches of garlic noodles with the odds and ends.
Golden Crab House delivered great value and a deliciously fun night enjoyed by all.
Dinner for 10
Shrimp Papaya Salad
2 Roasted Crabs
Five Spice Chicken
Steamed Sea Bass
Braised String Beans
House Garlic Noodles
Deep Fried Banana with Ice Cream
Golden Crab House
1830 Irving St.
San Francisco, CA 94122
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