Rockin' Crawfish - Oakland, any reports?
A new spot that's opened near east side Lake Merritt. I've only noticed it the last couple of weeks. Has anyone tried it yet? Comparisons to Boiling Crab and the like?
I stepped inside for a bit to grab a menu, but didn't have time to ask any questions. It looked clean and remodeled a bit inside with a bit of a sportsbar feel.
It's only been open a few months.
I've been there five times and did one takeout. I haven't tried any of South Bay chains, so I can't compare it to Boiling Crab, etc. I *can* compare it to Red Crawfish and the newish Coco's replacement SJ Crawfish in San Francisco. For me, it hasn’t been significantly better or worse then either one of those, but the proximity for this East Bayer vaults them up to #1 for me.
It's probably better than Red Crawfish, but more expensive. They don't have special deals, for one. It's not as good as SJ, but it's cheaper (plus Rockin' takes credit cards, which SJ doesn't). The crawfish is usually a good size and the sauce has that nice sweet taste I've come to associate with these Vietnamese-Cajun places. I’ve had a few mushy crawfish each time, but I’ve rarely encountered ones that seemed too muddy (as I have at Red) or rotten.
They're open 2pm to 11pm daily, which make them a really good weekend place. I've only been there on weekend afternoons, and so far there seems to be a steady stream of people during this time, but there are also always tables empty during that time.
They have three flavors: lemon pepper, garlic and something (too lazy to look at the menu right now), and rockin' combo, which is simply both of the prior two combined. The first time I was there the crawfish was small to med. This last time around, this past weekend, we truly got a few massive giant specimens as well.
I've only tried rockin' combo, but I actually can't imagine that the other two flavors taste very different. The reason for that is that there's a heavy overlay of some sort of Cajun spice mix. I've had the rockin' combo mild and I've had with "no spice" and both were quite spicy. The "no spice" is probably close to other restaurant's medium, and the mild is a solid medium hot that can be slightly painful when you first dig into it. Still, I prefer the mild flavor because I think it has more sauce and garlic. I can't imagine what someone who can't eat anything spicy or more than a traditional mild would do with the spice level.
The rockin' combo sauce is generally thicker than at both Red and SJ (I say "generally" because one time it wasn't), so it clings onto the crawfish nicely, and it has large chunks of garlic. They're really skimpy with the sausage, but the corn is a better size than at Red Crawfish. They also have a gumbo my DH is quite fond of.
Their serving conventions differ with the waiter, it seems. The first two times we were there the waitress emptied the bag o' crawfish into big black plastic dish they give, and then arranged the bag neatly for the shells. The next two times a different waitress offered and then emptied the bags but then took them away, so patrons just discarded shells on the table. This last time we went the waitress just plunked the black dish and the bags in front of us but didn't offer to empty the bags at all.
They don’t give you any utensils unless you ask, even if you order something like clams. They’re also a tad skimpy on the salt and pepper, so be sure to request more if you need it.
Based on the somewhat lukewarm response on this board, I kept putting off eating at Rockin' Crawfish. I guess I was worried that it would be an overpriced and inferior imitation of something I'd be better off getting in SoCal.
Anyway, I did try "Asian Cajun" for the first time during a recent visit to San Diego and really liked it, so we finally figured we might as well give this place a shot -- but kept our expectations really, really low.
But, what do you know, I thought the food was surprisingly great. My wife isn't a fan of crawfish, so we got a pound of shrimp (with the "rockin' combo" sauce, mild) and a pound of clams (garlic butter sauce, no spice). We added two half-cobs of corn and a small side order of sausage to the shrimp bag, and -- to round out our meal -- got an order of Cajun waffle fries (mild; I guess you have to specify the level of spice for everything here). It was A LOT of food for two people.
As noted, everything (except the fries) came in plastic bags, and in our case, the waitress offered to empty their contents out into the black dishes. No utensils were offered or needed, but we did put the plastic bibs and the roll of paper towels they gave us to good use. They also dump a bunch of lime wedges onto the table, for squeezing purposes.
I'm convinced that garlic-butter sauce is the perfect accompaniment for clams (then again, what isn't improved by garlic and butter?). These clams were nice, plump specimens. As were the head-on shrimp (maybe 20-count). Very tasty. I thought the "mild" spice level was perfect for us -- a little bit of a kick, but definitely nothing out of control. We probably could have handled the "medium," and we're not big chili-heads. I did wish the sauce had more chunks of garlic, though. And I don't know if we'd bother with the corn next time -- ours was pretty soggy.
Meanwhile, the waffle fries were great! I mean, let's be real, we're not talking fine dining here -- they're probably coming frozen out of a bag. But these oversized fries were perfectly seasoned and fried to the perfect level of crispness. A guilty pleasure.
A previous poster had commented on the prices -- I'm not familiar with the South Bay options, but I thought the prices were on par with what we paid in San Diego. All told, I thought it was a great value. Our bill came out to about $35 before tip, and we left stuffed. $11.99 a pound for the shrimp is a steal -- how much cheaper can you buy shrimp for, even raw at the supermarket?
One minor knock: How can they not offer sweet tea? Instead, there's generic raspberry iced tea from the fountain (with free refills) and a couple of "fancier" iced teas that they sell by the glass.
Give me unlimited refills of real Southern sweet tea, and I might dine here weekly...
Anyway, they were doing brisk business at around 6:00 on a Friday. The clientele was almost exclusively Asian and African-American, which I guess makes sense. Lots of big groups -- this would be a great place to go for a casual group meal. Kind of a weird location for a restaurant, though, next to a laundromat with not much else going on in the immediate vicinity.
The Rockin' Crawfish
211 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606