After visiting The Boiling Crab on my USA trip last year, I was eagerly anticipating the opening of House of Crabs at The Norfolk by the Drink ‘n’ Dine group who are the brains behind Santa Barbara and other funky pubs around town. House of Crabs is based on the same simple yet effective concept of boiling the seafood with your choice of tasty sauces in a clear plastic bag, similar to the type they usually bring the live seafood out to show you in Chinese restaurants.
The restaurant is nestled upstairs at The Norfolk and it’s not a particularly spacious spot, so you’ll need to book in advance to secure a spot (there’s 2 dinner sittings, 6pm or 8.30pm). The precious little space in there is decked out in the signature Drink ‘n’ Dine style – think nautical themed paraphernalia strung up about the place like beach umbrellas and a lot of fairy lights to liven things up.
It didn’t take us too long to decide to get a mix of the South Australian Mussels, Queensland Prawns, Snow Crab and King Crab in a variety of sauces (Cajun, Mexican and Oriental). They have specials like yabbies too – but when we asked for them, it seems that House of Crabs sell out of some things by the 8.30pm sitting as ours was. Anyway, things were about to get real dirty, real fast with all that saucy shellfish coming out, so the waitress brought our some paper bibs and some very practical rubber gloves for those who didn’t want to get their hands dirty.
While we waited for our shellfish to be boiled, we nibbled on the delicious BBQ Octopus Taco with Jalapeno Salsa Verde which left us wanting more…though our other entree the promising sounding Crab, Black Bean & Chorizo Balls with Old Bay Mayo weren’t quite such a hit with the table.
BBQ Octopus Taco, $6 each
Crab, Black Bean & Chorizo Balls with Old Bay Mayo, $15
The cooked shellfish came out all together in the plastic bags and it was quite hard to tell which bag contained which type of seafood and which sauce (as the 3 sauces we had ordered were all red coloured). All I can say about the sauces is that the Cajun won hands down as the best sauce to pair with all the types of shellfish, with its addictive blend of savoury spiciness and plenty of herbs. Out of all the shellfish, the Snow Crab had the sweetest flesh and had absorbed the sauces well (though you can always dunk the meat back in the bags which still have a lot of sauce left in them). The King Crab was more expensive and was tasty with the sauce too, but with the price differential between the Snow Crab and the King Crab, you’re probably better off going with the former.
S.A. Mussels $17 per 500g
Qld Prawns $27 per 500g
Snow Crab $36 per 500g
King Crab $45 per 500g
The Mussels were the cheapest of the lot to order, but of course most of the weight is from the heavy shells and that counts for a lot when all the seafood is sold in 500g portions. The Prawns were reasonably sized and juicy, but were gone in a flash on our table. Be sure to ask for some chunks of bread from the waitress to mop up all the leftover sauce!
All in all, House of Crabs is pricey compared to its American counterparts, but it’s a fun group experience and fans of seafood should definitely hit it up to try their super tasty cooking style, which infuses the seafood with the addictive sauces.
House of Crabs
Level 1, 305 Cleveland Street, Redfern (above The Norfolk)
Ph: (02) 9699 3177