Hungry Cat's Last Steamed Crab Night of the Season

— by Caroline on Crack

The waiter teaching us how to break open the crab.

Even though cooked whole animals creep me out (see my quail experience at Osteria Mozza) and Hungry Cat‘s food, although tasty, is a bit more than my wallet can allow (NYC here I come!), I found myself saying, “I’m in!” to estarLA (Esther) when she was looking for one more person to join her and Shopeatsleep (Maya) at Hungry Cat’s crab fest on Tuesday. Hey, it’s my girrrls and cracking crab with them sounded like so much fun.

But when we walked in and I saw the buckets of cooked crab on a table at the restaurant’s entrance, I chickened out. The hostess said, “They cook the live crabs out here and this is where the servers pick up the cooked ones.” “Ewww! Live crabs?!” I couldn’t help but exclaim and then realized that was a dumb thing to say. Why am I here if not to eat fresh crab? “Oops, heh. I’m sure it’s delicious,” I said walking to my seat on the patio.

And yet I couldn’t bring myself to order the fresh steamed blue crabs (red when they’re steamed dead). They reminded me of those facehuggers from the Alien movies. “Well since you guys are getting them, I’ll just order the lobster roll!” I told the girls, happy with my decision. Extremely happy because not only was the Maine lobster unrecognizable with its meat stuffed into some type of hot dog bun but it came with a nice pile of frites ($23). For the order of crab (1/2 dozen for $25, dozen for $50), all you get is crab. But later on we discovered, that’s all you really need.

While we waited for our order we perused the special Crab Night drink menu which enticed us with

“Crabby Cats” cocktails like Orange Julyus (Egorushka vodka, OJ, vanilla and egg white) and Pink Sangria (Spanish rose, banyuls and fresh market juices). But I went for the Craftsman Smoked Black Lager ($6 pint), my fave of all the Craftsman brews. Mmm, chocolate and coffee flavors!

To kill time til our food came, we decided to split a half pound of peel n’ eat shrimp. It’s $17 if we wanted to peel them ourselves but since I’m lazy I insisted we fork over the extra $2 to have the kitchen peel them for us. Money well spent, I’d say. A half pound amounted to three shrimps per girl.

Maya wasn’t crazy about the cocktail sauce they came with but I loved it. And the shrimp was so fresh and nommy, I just devoured them one right after the other. No need to keep up pretenses with these blogger bffs.

After some time our entrees finally arrived. The waiter gave Maya and Esther a quick tutorial on how to break down the crab and get at the meat. Another thing that made me happy with my low-maintenance lobster roll; I wouldn’t have to work for it. While the girls hammered away at the crab shells with the wooden mallets that were provided, I took a fork to my cushy lobster roll. And then lifted the piece to my mouth. Mmmm! So buttery! So rich! So sinful! I tried to take my time with it, relish it, savor it, since it was such a small amount of food. But I couldn’t wait and ended up swallowing down half-chewed hunks of roll. It’s the butter, I tell you! Fortunately the frites, which took up about 75 percent of the rest of the plate, finished the job of filling me up.

In the meantime, Esther and Maya were still powering through their crabs. Mallets flying, pieces of crab shell in their hair, crab guts attached to their clothes. “I don’t think I’ll want to eat crab again for a lonnnng time,” Maya said. It was when they hit their fourth crab that the erpiness, as a result of being stuffed, set in. But they managed to finish every last crustacean.

Even though our bill was excruciating to look at, this was a fun albeit once-in-a-very-blue-moon treat. We weren’t thrilled by the molasses-slow service that night which ended up dissuading us from having dessert but then just chalked it up to the pack house of crab eaters here on the last steamed crab night of the season.

I don’t think I’d do this again, only because it exceeds my budget, in terms of the food-to-cost ratio. However, if you are looking for a fun food night thing to do with your friends during crab season, sign up for the Hungry Cat newsletter to get a heads-up about their next crab night in spring 2010. It’s worth at least doing once.

More pics from Hungry Cat’s crab night.

The Hungry Cat
1535 Vine Street
Los Angeles, California 90028 (map)
(323) 462-2155
Twitter: @thehungrycat

Hungry Cat in Los Angeles