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Oct 1, 2008 12:57 PM

Red Crawfish in the TL

I was so excited when I saw that my 'hood had a new restaurant replacing Huang's next to Bodega Bistro "Red Crawfish". It is a Vietnamese restaurant also, but they also have Cajun cuisine crawfish, shrimp, oysters, etc. Unfortunately, from the menu it looks like cajun/seafood only at dinner. Anyone been?

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  1. I've noticed it too, and that it offers a happy hour.

    Any hounds tried it?

    Red Crawfish
    611 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA

    1 Reply
    1. This reminds me of a place in LA's Little Saigon (Garden Grove, sorry can't recall the name but pretty sure I posted about it), community tables as well as 2 and 4 tops, high energy, run by young and personable Vietnamese, and some of the best mud bugs (crawfish, crayfish, etc....) to be found. If RC even comes close you're indeed most fortunate.

      5 Replies
      1. re: PolarBear

        There are several in this genre in the San Jose area and at least one other in SF that I can think of.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Looks interesting, and more convenient for this East Bay'er than CoCo's (or whatever it's called now) in the Sunset. But the lack of Saturday dinner hours (except for private parties) is too bad. What restaurant choses Saturday nights of all nights to be closed? I wish someone would open a crawfish place up here that's actually open for lunch on weekends too.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Any of them worthy of mention? The one in GG is The Boiling Crab, would love to find something similar in the Bay area.

            1. re: PolarBear

              Boiling Crab is opening a branch in San Jose... I saw the "Coming Soon" sign on Capitol Expwy, on the other side of the road from the mall with Pho Y #1. No opening date on their website, either.

              1. re: Cicely

                Thanks much, Cicely. Will look forward to them opening.

        2. Yes, this is the latest Vietnamese/Chinese craze that started in Orange County, spread to the San Gabriel Valley, and now has hit the Bay Area. In Orange County the target audience is Vietnamese, while in the SGV it's Chinese diners who are targeted. It's so bad in the SGV that two competing Cajun places opened up on the same side of the same shopping center. Focus at the ones in the L.A. area is the young adult crowd as a place to hang out, with many of the places also employing waitresses dressed in, uh, abbreviated seafaring costumes.

          1. Well, we hit Red Crawfish last night at about 5:30. At that time we were the only people there but then we were joined by a table of cops (who seemed to be regulars) and then another small table. By the time we left at around 7pm the place was starting to fill up with mainly Asian 20-somethings.

            Taking advantage of the happy hour special, we ordered 6 lbs mild and two corn. Even though we opted not to order sausage there were a number of slices of sausage in the bags, plus a few chunks of potato. They brought out one 3-lb bag first and then the other bag mid-way through. That was a nice touch.

            In comparison to Coco's the "mild" is quite a bit milder but also significantly more garlic-y. At Coco's the mild starts with a slow burn and then, by the time you're done with your meal, builds to quite a heat. At Red Crawfish the mild has a bit of a tingle but isn't spicy enough to be layered into anything close to painful. I think next time I'll opt for Red Crawfish's medium.

            The flavor of the broth is indeed quite good and deep but, again if you're comparing it to Coco's, has less of the sweet Cajun heat and more of a garlic flavor. The crawfish themselves were a bit mushy, but the waiter (owner?) explained to me that her distributor had fallen though with the live crawfish this week so they had to use frozen, and that we should come back next week when they should have live Delta crawfish. She also said that the end of November is when they would start getting live Louisiana crawfish.

            I will definitely be back (though, granted, given the dearth of choices in the area they'd have to be really awful for me not...) . The broth is sufficiently promising (in fact, my husband preferred it to Coco's, though I'm not so sure--I think trying the medium will help make up my mind), and it will just be a matter of making sure that the issue was the crawfish quality was merely due to an anomalous distribution problem. They are certainly quite a bit more convenient for me than Cocos, if I just go after work and forget about their whole Saturday issue, and the smaller space should be more comfortable in the winter.

            I'll report back with a more definitive judgment next time when I can actually have live crawfish.

            19 Replies
            1. re: PegS

              Great post, Peg, and I especially appreciate the comparison with Coco's. Now I won't feel so compelled to make my way to the Sunset when Red C is so much closer. So many Vietnamese have settled around Houston and the gulf areas, it's cool that we have places like this that combine the culinary traditions. May I ask how much our meal cost for the two of you?

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Hi Melanie. The L. A. Times did a story on how the Vietnamese Cajun craze got started in O.C. A twist is how they've become popular among the Chinese in the SGV. There are a lot of silly "theme" Chinese restaurants down here, mostly Taiwanese in origin, such as Indian Restaurant which has Chinese waitresses dressed up as squaws, and Jurassic where you'd expect to bump into Fred Flintstone. The Cajun places fit in nicely with these existing types of restaurants.


                1. re: Chandavkl

                  On the other hand, spicy crayfish started to become all the rage in Shanghai (and possibly other parts of China) before the first OC Vietnamese crawdad place opened for business. Fashions in mainland China also tend to trickle down to overseas Chinese.

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  DH says it was $52 before the tip. I didn't see the bill so I'm assuming it was for 4 lbs plus two cobs of corn, and that they didn't charge us for the sausage they threw in. We didn't order any drinks.

                  1. re: PegS

                    Thanks, sounds like a fairly reasonable night out. During spring break I spent a day in the Delta and had mudbugs in Isleton. Looking forward to eating more closer to home.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      My husband and I have been several times, and we've decided the best deal is getting "buy two pounds get one free" to gol and leaving with three pounds for about $26.

                      What we've noticed is that mild is pretty much devoid of heat, but medium kicks it practically to the point of discomfort. And we're both people who love spicy food--Korean, Szechuan, Mexican, you name it. Habaneros are my friend--so it was a bit disappointing to be done in by "medium spicy" cajun crawfish. Then again, maybe our order got mixed up with someone else's.

                      My only point of comparison is with Boiling Crab in Los Angeles since it's been years since I've been to NoLa. Boiling Crab has the whole package: gulf oysters, good corn and sausage, delicious shrimp. Red Crawfish has clearly superior crawfish, but nothing else there is good. My husband tried entrees that were simply poorly cooked, and the corn and sausage we get with crawfish is always cooked to the point of being rubber.

                      But at $26 for three pounds, it's a great party food. Cook up some corn and sausage on your own and make it a $40 party for three or four people.

                      1. re: Pei

                        That's a great suggestion, Pei, thanks for sharing. I'd just as soon eat messy food at home where I can clean myself up thoroughly afterwards.

                        1. re: Pei

                          We included a whole crab in our order from BC and it was delicious, since it was take out they included a six foot piece of butcher paper and plenty of paper towels. Any idea if Red Crawfish is going to feature Dungeness now that the season is almost here?

                          1. re: PolarBear

                            Oh, I forgot one thing that might make a difference to some. Unless something's changed, Coco's doesn't accept credit cards. Wells Fargo is just across the street from them but it was rather nice to be able to just pull out our credit card for Red Crawfish--especially since an ATM isn't quite as convenient to RC as to Coco's.

                            1. re: PegS

                              Update: went last night. This time I got the medium spicy while my husband stuck with the mild. He reported that it was spicier than last time but I didn't try his so I was unable to compare. I was quite happy with my medium spicy and it definitely wiped away any misgivings I had from our first visit.

                              YMMV, but for me, who regularly sprinkles Tabasco or squirts sriracha on things but isn't, say one of those habanero people, the medium was nose-runningly spicy enough while managing to just keep under the threshold of being too uncomfortable to bear. I'd say their medium is a bit spicier than Coco's mild but somewhat less spicy than their medium.

                              They still have Delta crawfish (they think Louisiana will arrive Dec 1 or so), and the live crawfish texture was, naturally, a far cry from the tougher, chewier texture of the frozen ones from our first visit. In addition, I didn't get one rotten one, which was quite nice.

                              The restaurant was quite a bit more quiet last night than the first time we went, but I'm hoping that was an anomaly. Now that I've had the fresh crawfish in the med spicy it's going to be a much more frequent after-work haunt!

                              1. re: PegS

                                Has anyone been to Red Crawfish recently? I only found this thread (and a tangential mention on another) and I'm trying to decide whether to add this place to my 19-page-long SF Bay Area list. It seems it would only be worth going if they have the fresh crawdaddys. Anyone know if you can find out ahead of time? We're not coming till November which as mentioned above was when they were expecting the LA ones. Is that the normal "season" for 'em?

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  Honestly, I would save the crawfish boil for a trip to Louisiana. You should be aware that it is a Viet interpretation on the crawfish boil. Really garlicky, really greasy, and I suspect MSG. The mudbugs were kind of muddy tasting (I doubt they flush them with fresh water), and they're bizarrely stingy with the corn and potatoes.

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    Funny this just came up. We were just there this past Friday and were rather disappointed. I know it's probably due to the season or maybe just a bad night, but the crawfish were teeny (many had bay shrimp-sized tails or smaller) and really, really muddy tasting. Also, I think the broth has been toned down a bit. I got medium spicy, per usual, and although there was a lot more garlic pieces the broth itself was much less spicy.

                                    I didn't recognize either of the waitresses, so I don't think the owner was there. I asked about the crawfish and the waitress tried to tell me that Louisiana crawfish are always smaller than Delta crawfish. Well...yes...but not THIS small in restaurants. I could have handled the size better if not for the muddiness. That just made it all barely worth eating.

                                    1. re: PegS

                                      I actually heard about RC on Bay Area Bites from a poster who I gather is Vietnamese and is quite a fan. While I appreciate that Louisiana would be the best place for a traditional boil, I'm kind of intrigued by this mashup of the two cuisines, which we certainly don't have in Vancouver :-). Apart from the size, is there a difference in taste between the Delta c'fish (which I take it are local) and the LA ones? Are they equally good as long as they are both fresh?

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        They are equally good as long as they are both fresh. (Although I suspect a La native would have a quibble). My point is that the ones at RC are not fresh.

                                        1. re: sfbing

                                          Years ago I read an article while at a conference in Anaheim (hotel reading material) about one of the Boiling Crab - type spots. This referenced a Vietnamese family who, after escaping by boat, ended up in Louisiana. And in the shrimping business. The men worked the boat, the women started a shrimp and crawfish boil business. Then along came Katrina. Boats destroyed, crabshack smashed. They relocated to the OC where they had family, and opened a crab/crawfish and shrimp shack.
                                          My problem, when I went to the restaurant (and I cannot recall the name) is that the claim was that all the shellfish were fresh. In August, I asked, where would you get fresh dungeness and crawfish? No answer for that.

                                          1. re: jimtak

                                            Point taken. I do not eat frozen crustaceans. No RC for me :-(.

                                    2. re: grayelf

                                      I think the greatest attraction for these types of places is as a cultural phenomenon. Orange County, the San Gabriel Valley and San Jose have quite a few of these types of places, and of the places I've tried I've found the food interesting, but not amazing.

                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                        I think there is (or was) another place that does this in SF. I know there are (were) a few places in San Jose. These places seem to have short lives. If you do a search you might come up with the names

                    2. We were there tonight, Sept 10, 2009; nothing really special. We got the 2 person special for $45 (w/o tips): 2lbs crawfish, garlic bread, garlic noodles, fried sweet potato, plus dessert (scoop vanilla ice cream and two pieces of fried dough (with a very small piece of banana inside). We got there around 7:30 pm, and the place was half empty; by the time we left it was almost full.

                      There's really nothing great about the side dishes. Garlic bread and noodles were mediocre at best. The garlic bread look like it was sliced from a small baguette, slathered with butter, and topped with some garlic. Noodles was garlicky but was smothered with oil and lukewarm when it arrived. Sweet potatoes tasted fresh and crisp.

                      Crawdads were okay, very small pieces. The "mild" sauce/broth/soup was excellent. I don't think we'll go again....