Friday, September 22, 2006

The Crab Cooker of Newport Beach, CA

Shrimp on a Skewer Spaced with Bacon

My dad used to bring me here (2200 Newport Blvd, 949-673-0100) when I was a kid, and it had been one of my faves since then, not only because of the food, but also because of its charming character. In contrast to the cookie-cutter fakeness of a chain restaurant, this place is full of little unique twists not commonly seen, be it the plastic breadstick containers on each table with the round cutout hole on top for easy dispensing, the big shark hanging from ceiling (and no, it's not like that place in Bangkok), all the way down to the glass candy dispenser and free postcards that you pass by on your way out of the restaurant. Like The Fish Market, this place sells some fresh fish on the side, but it is more down-to-earth, with everything from the restaurant side served on paper plates and with plastic utensils (something about that plastic iced tea cup with the lemon and coffee stirrer appeals to me too). Even the taglines are very playful gramatically, such as "Eat Lots A Fish."

World's Best Clam Chowder

Unfortunately, the steamed clams were out of season today (available between "October threw April," apparently). But I grabbed their "world's best" clam chowder plus the shrimp on a skewer spaced with bacon (it was tough resisting temptation to order nearly everything on the menu...who can resist Dungeness crab and Alaskan king crab legs??). I had forgotten that their clam chowder was more Manhattan style than New England (my preference), so it whether or not it was really the "world's best" was debatable, but it still went down well, with surprisingly big strips of clam sitting in there. I also got a bit excited when my shrimp skewers arrived, as the plate had two very simple yet requisite items on it that I hadn't seen in a long time: drawn butter and a wedge of lemon, which never really appear at seafood places back in Asia. The shrimp and Romano potatoes were done a little longer than I'd like (and weren't as rich as they could have been), but I still happily wolfed this all down. The coleslaw was also one of the best that I've had: simple, fresh, and clean-tasting. Yum.

Inside the Crab Cooker - with a big shark hanging from the ceilingThese guys have another location over in neighboring Tustin, but that's about it. I suppose that asking them to open a spot in Singapore would be out of the question. Heck, I can't even go to their spots in NorCal...but I guess we have The Fish Market or The Swan Oyster Depot up there. And while those places are also some of my faves, I still like the casual and fun ambience here.

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