Sublime Noodles & Crab at Crustacean
It's hard to believe that I recently discovered dishes at Crustacean, a Euro-Vietnamese very trendy restaurant going strong since 1997. But in its heydey of popularity, I was working in the arts/non-profit and could not dream of affording this Beverly Hills establishment.
Truth be told, it's not too affordable for me even now, and the description "pan-Asian" does not reassure me about any restaurant, but recently I met a couple of friends there and we shared this simple yet soul-satisfying meal of three exquisite courses.
Course 1 - Appetizer Sampler
Seared Tuna, Lobster Spring Rolls, Grilled Steak Cubes and Crispy Shrimp Mousse on sugarcane skewers served with duo of kiwi and strawberry sauce.
The next 2 courses came from the An family Secret Kitchen, within the main kitchen, which mother and Master Chef Helene An built in 1975 in San Francisco to protect the family's culinary legacy. No staff members except family and chefs with over 10 years of employment may enter. I am convinced this helps account for the restaurant's success.
Can you get delicious noodles and crab all over L.A.? Yes. Is it executed and does it taste this perfect? Probably not.
Course 2 - An's Famous Garlic Noodles
The first word that comes to mind upon remember this dish is magical. I can't articulately explain it's comforting appeal. I could have and would have happily eaten 2 more portions of this dish.
They are warm, Chinese style, garlicky, perfectly seasoned noodles that you will remember long after you've inhaled them (which you will).
If you do a web search of this dish you will find countless recipes trying to mimic it. If you found one that compares, please send me the recipe.
Course 3 - An's Famous Roasted Crab
This roasted dungeness crab comes three ways, with 3 price levels ($41-$50): whole, cracked, and completely de-shelled and cleaned. We chose the middle ground.
It's prepared with An's garlic sauce and secret spices and tastes of freshly cracked black pepper. Juicy, oceany and finger licking deliciousness.
From its secret kitchen to its opulent colonial decor including the famous winding 80 foot long "walk on water" sunken floor aquarium at the entrance to its impeccable service, and of course the food, one can see why Crustacean strongly withstands the test of time in this fickle city.
9646 S Santa Monica Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Neighborhood: Beverly Hills
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Well, chacun-a-son-gout and all that, but I've not found anything at Crustacean that can't be had for half the price and twice the quality in the SGV. And yes, even on the Westside one can do a lot better.
The only excuse to eat there, IMHO, is if you're a business traveler in Beverly Hills on a big expense account, and even then for the price of dinner at Crustacean you can get cab fare to Monterey Park...
Hello Bradbury, I totally agree that these days the same type of food, especially the crab can be found for less money.
Just taking the taste and quality of those dishes on their own, on top of the stellar service and ambiance, it doesn't change the fact that Crustacean is a great restaurant.
As I wrote, I definitely wouldn't (and couldn't afford) it often.
For better or for worse, I don't think there is any *one* restaurant with the exact same things. But a rough hypothetical composite might look like:
30% Newport Seafood
10% Green Zone
5% Singapore Airlines business-class lounge at LAX
5% Bahooka (for the fishtank action, not the "food")
A brave soul emerges to counter the plethora of poor reviews of Crustacean on this board! I'll give you big points for going against the current, but I gotta say, tiffinunboxed, you just lot a bunch of street cred with me on this one...
As an aside: The secret to those noodles is butter - LOTS and lots of butter.
I have no objection to someone challenging Chowhound Conventional Wisdom (I daresay it needs to happen more often) but ... well ... let's just say that if I wanted middling Asian food in a lovely koi-pond setting, I'd go to the new-ish tea house at the Huntington:
Even with the Huntington entrance fees added on, I'd still have enough left over (versus dinner at Crustacean) for a 101 beef roll (or five) on the way home. Plus, I could see a really cool desert garden, and maybe even a corpse flower.
Also, the "secret kitchen" is a capital-G Gimmick. Think about it: if you really had a proprietary trade secret that was vital to your success, would you go around blabbing about it for 14 years? It's like the Doomsday Device in "Dr. Strangelove" - it doesn't have its desired effect if you don't tell the world you've got one. ;-)
J.L., I don't think something has to be cheap or small to taste good. Just reacting to the flavor of the food and that alone. I know it's expensive and overhyped, but found the food solid.
Have had similar noodles at many places but they don't hit the same spot. It's sort of the like the mystery garlic sauce at Zankou. Lots of places make it but it never tastes quite the same.
Hope to regain some cred.
FYI, I appreciated reading your review and am now inclined to give Crustacean a try. I have other friends who also love it. Sometimes, a restaurant isn't only about the food. I give points to ambience, service, convenience. I am not venturing to Little Saigon for the ultimate Vietnamese food, nor am I going to SGV for Chinese as I have spent time in China eating luscious and not so luscious food. To those who so rudely chastised the OP for his/her opinion. Poor manners..
> Sometimes, a restaurant isn't only about the food.
True indeed. But, if the food is downright disappointing, then that's a major handicap for the ambience, service, etc. to overcome.
And I don't believe I (or anyone else) rudely chastised anyone. I try to avoid ever questioning someone else's idiosyncrasies, intelligence, upbringing, sanity or manners on these boards. My point was simply that, in my experience, Crustacean does not offer value to the consumer, in the traditional sense of the word, especially within the context of the available options.