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Reel in a Catch

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
December 23, 2012

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Ahoy, matey! There’s plenty of fish in the sea, but Crab City throws down the anchor when it comes to offering a Southern-style seafood boil right here in the Islands. Owner JJ Luangkhot, who also owns JJ Bistro & French Pastry, opened the doors to this seafood establishment on Waialae Avenue this past summer, and has been reeling in the masses ever since.

Dining Out recently paid a visit to Crab City to “sea” what all the hype is about, and boy, were we impressed. As soon as we set foot into the eatery, we were greeted by the irresistible aroma of fresh seafood seasoned to perfection amid a welcoming atmosphere decked out in washed up fishing nets and surfboards. Luangkhot welcomed us with a feast, and we dove right in to take in all that is Crab City. One thing’s for certain: Utensils are a no-go — no plates, knives or forks. Just grab a seafood cracker, prepare to get your hands dirty and get down to business.

DO: Tell us about the Crab City dining experience? What does it offer its customers?

Luangkhot: Here at Crab City we offer a picnic under the sea. It’s a family-style seafood dining experience. It’s always a lot of fun when you’re here, and we encourage people to get messy and use their hands. It’s not your average restaurant and it’s definitely not fine-dining. For example, sheets of paper take the place of table cloths, bibs are provided to avoid a mess on your clothing, your meal comes in a large plastic bag loaded with your seafood favorites soaked in your preferred sauce, and seafood remnants go into buckets.

DO: It seems like seafood hot spots are popping up across town. What sets Crab City apart from other restaurants like this?

Luangkhot: Our sauces really stand out and they are less oily than our competitors. We like to use real butter, so it really absorbs into the seafood, and the taste is fantastic!

DO: Give us a glimpse of the menu. What are some best-selling items?

Luangkhot: There’s a lot of seafood to choose from, including lobster, Dungeness crab, king crab, snow crab, blue crab, crawfish, shrimp and more. Many people like to order Crab City Special Combos. There’s three combo options to select from: No. 1 has lobster, crawfish, mussel, shrimp and clam ($48); No. 2, the most popular, includes Dungeness crab, crawfish, mussel, shrimp and clam ($48); and No. 3 features snow crab, crawfish, shrimp, mussel and clam ($38).

DO: Second to the sumptuous seafood is a myriad of savory sauces. What types of sauces are available?

Luangkhot: Yes, our sauces are the best! We have Cajun Style, Lemon Garlic Butter and Garlic Butter sauces. Customers also can choose their level of spice, whether they want it mild, medium or volcanic.

Lemon Garlic Butter is the most mild of the sauces, and if you prefer a spicy sauce, Cajun Style is the way to go. All of these sauces are our very own, and we’ve worked hard to perfect them.

DO: The seafood is succulent and very fresh. Where does Crab City obtain its seafood?

Luangkhot: Currently, all of our seafood is imported from Portland and Seattle, and it is shipped here twice a week. The freshness of our seafood is top priority for us.

DO: Besides the combos and other entree items, there is a plethora of sides to complete your dining adventure. Yes?

Luangkhot: Exactly. Customers also can order seafood on the side, as well as Crab City hot wings, sweet corn, Cajun fries, sausage, rice, edamame and more.

DO: What is the secret behind the great flavor of Crab City’s cuisine?

Luangkhot: First of all, our seafood is fresh. Secondly, our sauces are very good. When you combine those two, it’s always a success.

DO: Do customers need to make dining reservations?

Luangkhot: I recommend reservations be made for large groups. For smaller groups, walk-ins are fine.

DO: Is Crab City offering anything special for the holidays?

Luangkhot: With the holidays here, we are giving our patrons special deals, such as the combo special available now to Dec. 31. When customers order Combo No. 1 or Combo No. 2, they can get a side order of seafood for half-price, including king crab, snow crab, Dungeness crab or Maine lobster. Patrons can even take advantage of this special when ordering meals to go because a lot of times during the holidays people like to stay home with their families. Also as a holiday gift, when patrons dine at Crab City they will receive 10 percent off desserts from JJ Bistro & French Pastry. In addition, we will welcome 2013 by offering 15 percent off on any visit to the restaurant in January. So, if customers come to dine this month, they will receive a discount to be taken advantage of in January. Lastly, diners can receive $5 off the famous Chocolate Pyramid from JJ Bistro & French Pastry when they dine at Crab City. Chocolate Pyramid ranges from $25 to $85 depending on size.

DO: What is Crab City looking forward to in the new year?

Luangkhot: We’re working on implementing more specials in 2013 to keep our loyal customers happy and to draw in first-timers. We also might include a variety of new sauces on the menu. Right now, I feel that the variety of sauces that we have is too limited.

DO: Crab City has been doing well and is always bustling with hungry diners. What is the best time to dine to avoid a wait?

Luangkhot: To avoid a wait, the best time to come is between 3 and 5 p.m. People love seafood, and this style of dining is unique. It’s always bound to be a good time here at Crab City.

Crab City

3441 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
Open Daily, 11 a.m. – midnight