Is the crab called "king Just a Shuck and Jive Bit?
I've only seen "king crab" in two places: COSTCO and in Nevada at casino buffets.
I had it once in a casino and it was stringy and watery. I never touched it again.
Was my experience due to bad quality or too long shelf life? Is "this crab really good when fresh?
Yes it is really good when fresh. Your experience may have been due to being over frozen-hence the build up of ice crystals in the flesh.
A large percentage of the catch is steamed immediately after being taken off the ships.
But if you are lucky enough to live near a port that might have access to a live one-its a special treat.
I am lucky in that I have traveled to Japan where you can buy live king crabs-$300 or so for an 8 pounder.
Big ones! We are talking about some of the tastiest crab on the planet. Drinking hot sake out of the carapace is a real treat.
Problem is, they catch those suckers WAY out in the ocean. It is difficult to transport live crab.
EDIT: you should be able to find live ones in SF, figure $30-40 a pound.
Yes, in Tokyo I've had great king crab (can't remember the Japanese for it other than kani, which is generic). I recall going to a restaurant run by an ex Sumo wrestler (think ex movie star/NFL quarterback for a cultural analogue) that had a huge 20-foot animated crab on the front, the kind of place I would run from quickly in the states, but they had fresh king crab and it was a treat.
Some High end Chinese Seafood restaurants, Koi Palace and Hong Kong East Ocean come to mind, Have live ones usually but you need a large party you want to impress to shell out that kind of dough.
Frozen King Crab Legs are not a good representation.
Koi Palace Restaurant
365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015
All "King Crab" & "Snow Crab" legs are frozen. They're flash-frozen shortly after catch & definitely before hitting any markets. The key to enjoying good ones is how old they are &/or how they've been handled between point of catch & point of purchase. In addition - how they're prepared also comes into the picture.
I never bother ordering them in restaurants or eating them from "buffets", because I have no control over how they've been held or how they've been reheated. It's a crap shoot no matter where you order them.
At home I preheat the oven to 350 & fill a large roasting pan with 1" of water. I then lay the legs in the pan & "roast/steam" them for 20-30 minutes. Assuming they're nice full legs to begin with, they've been absolutely delicious every time. Never stringy (which comes from dry/hot-steaming them, or steaming them early & then letting them sit dry under heat lamps), or water (from letting them sit in water).
Buy some & try cooking them yourself at home. With some metled lemon butter on the side, they're a terrific & easy meal. Better & cheaper than ordering out.
I have seen live king crab in some of the very big tanks in HK-style seafood places in the San Gabriel Valley; menu just says MARKET PRICE, which I'm sure is more than my entire wardrobe is worth … However, back when I was just a rosy-cheeked young Air Force lad in Anchorage, The Hofbrau on 4th Avenue had a king-crab feast every Friday night. The steamed legs, melted butter and garlic bread were AYCE for $1.50. However, the butter was quite salty, so needless to say they sold many, many gallons of beer.