Boiling Crab - Garden Grove
A recent Chowhound find reported by jaydee and followed up by Hershey Bomar was Boiling Crab, a Cajun-styled, Vietnamese-owned, seafood boil restaurant located on the fringes of Garden Grove's Little Saigon.
Although the restaurant is one of many Cajun crawfish joints to recently pop-up in the area, on the Saturday night of my visit, it was filled to capacity and the wait list was two pages long.
Two doors down, a coin-op laundromat did its own steady business. And with Boiling Crab's wait time lasting well over an hour, I estimate that a load of laundry was washed, dried, pressed and folded by the time our table was ready.
Since the restaurant took no reservations and its rectangular room was no larger than a stripmall pho joint, most of the crowd milled around outside, on the sidewalk. Those waiting and standing were predominantly college-aged Asians, who smoked like fiends and swore like sailors.
The kitschy decor of the place, which feels like a hastily put together nautical theme night at the high school dance (a fake anchor here, a fishing net and a life preserver there), seemed contradictory to the crowd.
The point of the evening was not to bask in the theme park ambience, but to feast on crawfish, shrimp and crab. Small mountains of spent shells, heads, crawlers, and bald corn cobs littered the tables, along with sweaty bottles of Coronas and sytrofoam cups of soda-pop.
Upon being seated, butcher paper was laid out on our tabletop for soaking up stray juice. Asking how we should order, our young waitress explained that the rule of thumb is a pound of crawfish per person at a market price of $7.99/lb. The first two pounds includes one small corn on the cob and sliced Cajun sausage.
We ordered three pounds of the mudbugs seasoned with "The Whole Sha-Bang", a mixture of hot Cajun rub, roughly diced garlic, lemon juice, and melted butter. We also asked for some extra corn ($0.50 each) and sausage ($2.99).
Peering through the clear plastic bag, the crawdads looked like aliens, the kind which leap out during the climax of a movie to chew on people's faces. But it was us who decimated them. We twisted the heads off the buggers, wrapped our puckered lips around them, and sucked out the fatty/spicy juice from the skull, laughing like maniacal madmen.
To get at the pasty tomalley beneath the thorax, we pried the feelers apart from the body, ripping it off with a sickening crunch. Their pea green innards had a mossy taste, faintly sweet and swampy.
The tail we saved for last. This was the money meat. We pinched the aft section of the dorsal fin to force the succulent morsel out, and detached it daintily with two fingers. The thimble-sized hunk of flesh was tiny like a shrimp, but tasted like its bigger cousin, the lobster.
However, our assertion of dominance on the food chain was short-lived, as the mudbugs exacted its own revenge against us. Its weapon of choice was the pepper red brew it wore like a protective force field, which left our lips throbbing. Thankfully, the "mild" spice level we chose was only pleasantly numbing at this stage of heat, but at higher dosages it would be downright radioactive and lethal.
In the end, we had built our own little hills of litter piled high with the hollowed out shells of crustacean carcasses, soiled WetNaps, and a bill which was comparatively smaller than the carnage we left behind.
But in a last ditch effort of insolence, notice what those little mudbugs managed to get the nice servers to print on the receipt.
"Yo mama," indeed! You may have won this round, my wily adversaries, but I'll be back later with more friends and lemon wedges.
14241 Euclid St # C116
Garden Grove, CA 92843