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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

Have a Picnic Under the Sea

By Ali Resich Photos By Leah Friel
November 25, 2012

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One of the joys of following Hawaii’s food trends — besides eating, of course — is to “sea” new restaurant concepts wash ashore. The latest craze, which is sure to reel in the entire family, involves seafood, seafood and more seafood. In fact, according to Crab City owner and chef JJ Luangkhot, it’s a picnic under the sea!

Crab City opened in July just a few steps away from Luangkhot’s well-known eatery, JJ Bistro & French Pastry. The idea was to create a southern-style seafood boil restaurant reminiscent of the ones that have popped up across the states. “I believe the original concept is from Louisiana,” he says. “So we tried to bring something new to the Islands. Since we are in Hawaii, we have a great atmosphere with the beach, so we should have more live seafood.”

Patrons get ready to embark on a delicious voyage as they enter the festive restaurant decked out in washed up fishing nets and surf boards. The real fun begins as they settle into tables set up with nothing but white disposable table cloths. That’s right — no plates, knives or forks. The only utensils required are hands and a seafood cracker, perfect for bringing beautiful crab meat out of its shell.

Then diners sink deeper into a sea world of eats by selecting fresh seafood — Maine lobster, Dungeness crab, king crab and blue crab among others — as well as side dishes. The only thing left to do is dive in.

What sets Crab City apart from other seafood boil spots is its sassy sauces, which explode with texture and flavor thanks to the loads of fresh herbs and spices that go into them.

Choose from Garlic Butter, Lemon Garlic Butter or Cajun Style, then customize the heat level. Unlike a typical oily seafood sauce, Luangkhot’s varieties are thick with ingredients. He suggests enjoying them on the side so customers can dip away with pleasure.

The most popular items are Crab City Special Combos, in which Lobster ($48), Dungeness Crab ($48) or Snow crab ($38) is boiled with a generous mix of crawfish, shrimp, mussels and clams. They are great for sharing with the whole family, and during the holidays, diners can order an extra portion of the main seafood (crab or lobster) for half price with any combo order.

Crab City patrons also will receive a 15 percent discount toward any dessert from JJ Bistro & French Pastry throughout the holiday season, so you can end your feast on a sweet note. Be sure to try Luangkhot’s Christmas Log cake ($35, 8 inch; $45, 12 inch; $55, 18 inch; $65, 24 inch), which is perfect for large groups and parties.

Before Ali Carte sends you fishing, here are a few tips: Tie back any long hair, secure your bib tightly and most importantly, have fun making a mess at the table. After all, nowhere else can you get away with bad table manners and feverish devouring, which only makes the food taste better!

Crab City

3441 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
Daily, 11 a.m.-midnight