New restaurant: Crab City

Crab City is the last stop on our Boiling-Crab-inspired restaurants tour, one of three (Kickin' Kajun, Raging Crab) that popped up in Honolulu in just one month. It follows the same formula: kitschy sea shack theme, seafood arriving in bags, tossed in a spicy, buttery, Cajun-style seasoning, with only a crab claw cracker as a utensil.

The verdict? The same as the others:
– They are fun.
– The seafood isn't great.

I love the casualness of these kitschy, faux sea shack joints. I love digging my hands into a pile of shellfish and getting messy.

But it's really hard to overlook the poor seafood quality. A friend says it's because it's frozen. Frozen seafood isn't inherently bad, though: even quality sashimi is sometimes previously frozen. But the shellfish (lobster, crawfish, mussels) appear to be cooked, then frozen, giving it a watery, mushy quality. And so what saves the seafood, especially at Crab City, is the sauce, loaded with chopped garlic and butter, more similar to an Asian-style chili and garlic sauce for crab than a Cajun seasoning. The best complement to this stuff is the shrimp and potatoes, but if you gave me a loaf of crusty bread, I'd be in carby, buttery, garlicky heaven. Crab City also gives a little side dish of salt and pepper and lime wedges, a remarkably simple and perfect dipping sauce for seafood.

So of the three—Crab City, Kickin' Kajun, Raging Crab—which would I return to? Probably Kickin' Kajun. Maybe because it was the first, before I acquired a slight shellfish fatigue, but I remember the seafood quality here being the best. The seasoning wasn't as flavorful as the other two, but I'd probably shell out for it again.

$48 for the lobster, crayfish, mussel, shrimp and clam combo.
Crab City, 3441 Waialae Ave., 780-3115