Sunday, February 17, 2008

Crustacean - “Are You SURE You Don’t Want a Crab?”

Restaurant: Crustacean
Cuisine: Vietnamese/Asian Fusion
Address: 1475 Polk Street @ California St., Nob Hill, SF
Date Last Visited: January 16, 2008
Dining Partner: Star

It was the second day of Dining About Town and it was about time that my cousin Star and I had a dinner date. Crustacean is known for its whole crabs and garlic noodles, and people who have eaten there RAVE about it. However, since we were going for Dining About Town, we weren’t anticipating to buy a crab. Boo…

The ambiance of the restaurant is almost mysterious to me. The lights are a tad dim and the Asian relics displayed add a sense of exoticism. I’m speaking for myself here, but I loved the “King and I” feeling. I know I am in the wrong country (The King and I is in Siam/Thailand and Crustacean is mainly Vietnamese-focused, but same region of Asia), but that’s how I felt and I liked it.

For the starter, we had a choice of the Rice Paper Shrimp Roll - filled with poached shrimp, rice noodles, “rau ram” and green mango wrapped in a soft rice paper, served with a spicy peanut sauce OR Mixed Greens - frisee, mache, watercress and pear in a lemongrass vinaigrette, OR the Skewered Chicken - tender slices of chicken breast marinated with lemongrass, sesame and Asian herbs then grilled. The rolls and salad sounded good, but I wanted something meaty, so the chicken skewers it was.

The skewers of chicken came with pickles of cucumbers and carrots. I really liked this appetizer because skewered meat reminds me of the BBQ sticks I make myself. The pickled vegetables also reminds me of “atchara,” a Filipino version of pickled vegetables that we eat with BBQ. The chicken was perfectly tender and the marinade was sweet yet savory. The pickles were juicy, refreshing, but not as sour as a dill pickle. With all this meat though, I would have appreciated some rice or something starchy. Yeah, it’s the Asian in me. That is why we ordered these:

Crustacean’s Shrimp Toasts - Freshly minced shrimp on French baguette, lightly glazed and broiled ($9.95). We thought this would be good because it had the restaurant’s name in it. Eh, they were just okay. They were sweet because of the nice shrimp, but I found it rubbery and kind of bland. We were deciding whether to get these or the Crispy Wonton Duck Confit. Let’s just say that we should have gotten the duck confit.

Shaken Beef with Jasmine Rice - flambĂ©ed in Chardonnay, served with green beans, cherry tomatoes, and red onions. I didn’t see any flambĂ©ing or the Chardonnay. All I saw was a huge plate of meat. Forgive the blurriness of the photo, by the way. It was good, I mean, it was not particularly exciting. I was very familiar with the flavors and the pairing of the beef and the green beans, but it was good. Not as tender as I would have liked, (maybe sampling the shaking beef at the Slanted Door just a week earlier did not help in this equation), but it was tasty. It was a bit more garlicky than the version at the Slanted Door which I liked. It was good, but like I said, nothing too different than what I usually eat at home.

Prawn “Stir Fry” - prawns stir-fried served on a bed of An’s Garlic Noodles. I swear to God, people RAVE about these noodles like they are the best food in the world. I do give them a little credit because DAMN, they WERE good. I’m getting full just looking at the picture above. I mean, it’s just starch and garlic. Starch + garlic = Jo with a happy face. The name is somewhat misleading because it’s called Prawn Stir Fry, so shouldn’t there be MORE prawns? There’s only four of those little critters on there. I think that’s the only thing I would complain about, but these were yum. I should try replicating them at home.

Fried Banana a la Mode - I L-O-V-E fried bananas. Let me tell you the truth. I HATE eating raw bananas. I only like them cooked, and is my ideal way of having them. Actually the preparation above is the PERFECT way I would like them. Again, this is nothing new to me. I love fried bananas, so if there is a chance to have them, I would most likely jump on that chance. I even make them at home and serve them a la mode too. My secret: pancake batter with a sprinkling of sugar. Ohh, now that I think about it, sprinkling in “Sugar in the Raw” into the batter would be awesome because there would be big crystals of sugar with every bite. ^_^ But that is another story all together.

Orange Cream Sorbet. I was a bit disappointed with this because the sorbet was very crystallized. Star asked if it was supposed to be like that and I replied with, “Yes, because they made this in-house and the crystals are there because it was made from scratch.” Now that I think about it, I didn’t like the crystals. I like my sorbet icy without about shards of ice in it. I do applaud the presentation. Isn’t it just darling? HOWEVER, I would grab a half-gallon of Dryer’s Orange Cream over this. I’m sorry. =( The fresh flavor of orange was in there all the way, and though I am a citrus lover, this was not a winner.

Throughout dinner, crab after crab after crab came out to the diners. We watched the servers put on the bibs on the eaters and Star and I were envious. I asked her if she wanted to buy one (they were $35 each, by the way), but she didn’t want to. *sigh* STAR! We should have. Ha! Next time! Something that bugged us, particularly Star, was how the server was almost pushy and rushing. This was at the beginning of the meal and we kind of got the vibe that he did not want to serve us because we are young, like we were not the type would spend money at a restaurant. Homey, we threw down 300 bucks to eat at Michael Mina, so don’t you dare think we don’t eat good. As the meal progressed, he became nicer, but a first impression leaves a lasting effect on us and we did not forget that weird vibe. Boo on him. Overall, this meal was okay. I would have loved to try a crab, but this was not the day to do it. Besides, I wasn’t in the mood to smell like crab all night. Eh, not something I would rave about. I heard their sister restaurant Thanh Long is better (I don’t know how because their menus are almost the same), so I want to try them out. Eh, we’ll see. In conclusion, just okay.

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