Sea Side Crab Shack at Eden Center
This place used to be Saigon Garden, the only restaurant at EdenCenter with an outdoor seating area on the main parking plaza. Now a yellow banner proclaims Louisiana Crawfish and Crabs.
Five Chowhounds gathered for an impromptu lunch. We ordered a pound of cajun crawfish, a dozen grilled oysters, a tilapia salad, and a calamari stir fry.
The crawfish were 'regular size' which gives you the same amount of eating as a small shrimp. Messy, gooey, spicy, and maybe a bit mushy, they were ok. They were cooked and served in a plastic bag which had the spices and some liquid in it.
The tilapia salad turned out to be a ceviche-like dish that started off overpoweringly sweet yet had a strong peppery kick to it. Nice for a group, but I'd be real disappointed with this at a more intimate gathering. Just too sweet.
The calamari turned out to be tempura-style, served typically Vietnamese with fresh greens, herbs, and some wokked peppers and onions. Very delicious.
The grilled oysters were also a success, lightly cooked and served with garlic chips, herbs,and some fish sauce. Nice.
From this sampling, I'd say it's hard to be very enthusiastic about this place. Everything served on styrofoam, which makes it seem more like a picnic. In a parking lot.
I grew up in New Orleans and when I saw this place I was intrigued. Unfortunately, I had already eaten so I didn't sample the wares. New Orleans has a huge Vietnamese immigrant population, so the Louisiana/Vietnamese fusion thing is not surprising. Undoubtedly there are many Vietnamese folks cooking in local Louisiana restaurants, learning the Louisiana practices with regard to shellfish. The typical ingredients in the pre-packed crab or crayfish boil seasonings include mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne...things that would not be unusual in a Vietnamese kitchen. So if a Vietnamese cook decides to put his or her spin on my local favorite, why not? I'm eager to give it a try.
We had carry out crawfish and grilled oysters from here this past Saturday night. Not cheap exactly, but I thought the quality was very high, especially those oysters. Crawfish seem to me to be a lot of work to eat, but still a treat. I though these were particularly flavorful. I like the Viet Namese take on them. I guess I am pretty enthusiastic about this place. Nice to have a place stretch out a bit with something a little different. Also, I really like that Eden City vibe. Parking lot or no, seemed like they were doing a good business with customers that were liking the food, and who sure had plenty of choices all around them, if they didn't.
Possibly during crab season, this would be a good compromise destination if you have people who want crabs and people who want Vietnamese. However, the non-boiled seafood menu was extremely limited and there are no Vietnamese sides or drinks available. Other than that, I see no need to return---I loved the calamari dish but it won't be enough to satisfy our need for 3-5 good Vietnamese dishes when we hit the Eden Center.
And of course, I'm in mourning that Saigon Garden's outstanding baby clam on rice in sizzling hot iron pot is no more. Has anyone seen this dish elsewhere? The baby clams were similar to the baby clam and onion on rice cracker dish available at about 20% of our area's Vietnamese restaurants, but the hot pot created a crispy rice at the sides and bottoms similar to the dolsot version of bibimbap which is served in the hot stone pot.