The Crab House: In the Storm

01_15_rest revAmong the new crop of restaurants and food shops lining Dongcheng’s Bar Street is a Louisiana-themed seafood dining experience. From the bayou to South China, the Crab House guar-rohn-tees an assortment of seafood you won’t find at any other single restaurant.

Benny, the owner, a friendly and surprisingly young man, explained it is a copy of an establishment in Los Angeles. I remembered my business professor dispelling the myth, “Entrepreneurs aren’t guys with brand-new creative ideas. They’re mostly guys who steal other people’s ideas and do them better.” Whether Dongguan’s Crab House is better than its source is anyone’s guess, but for what it is, it’s pretty good.

The interior imitates an American motif. NBA jerseys adorn one wall, fishing nets are draped across railings and fixtures, and corrugated steel panels graffitied with cartoon crusteaceans imparts a textured environment.

The menu is in perfect English and Chinese. To order the signature crab boil, choose from frozen and fresh items imported from Russia, Alaska, Korea and Japan. Checkmark any of five flavors, the level of spice, and side dishes. Sashimi, fried food, southern vegetable dishes and European beer are available, but if you want fish, there is not a single one on the menu.

When you order a crab boil, a long strip of paper is flung across the table. The diner dons gloves, sleeves and a bib to shield their Sunday Best from the Katrina-strength storm of flavor approaching their mouth. He’s also armed with scissors, a cracker and a mallet. The food arrives in thick plastic bags, the tops of which are rolled down, like a hot tub party of shrimp, clams, vegetables and crab legs as thick as your thumb. The flavoring was rich, but not overpowering. By the end, I was scooping it up with garlic bread (the garlic bread is powerful, and delicious.)

The only downside is your wallet will take a beating. A hungry man should carry at least RMB 300. Many fresh seafood items are sold at market prices, but larger portions can be ordered at a slightly lower unit price. There is also a RMB 10 service charge for each diner.

Find the restaurant here.