What could be more invigorating for a seafood lover than walking into a restaurant that offers the freshest, meatiest and juiciest shellfishes swimming with secret spices and perfect seasonings in a convenient boil-in bag?
I stopped by at the Crab Factory in Petaling Jaya recently for a late lunch with my colleagues, and was impressed not just by the ambience, but also by its staggering array of treats from the sea that include king crabs, brown crabs, red lobsters, slipper lobsters and yabbies, all laid out for diners to have an infinitely delicious experience.
Roughly three years ago, an avid traveller T.Y. Ooi decided to open a restaurant that embraces the Creole and Cajun cuisine after an eye-opening trip to Louisiana. Besides introducing this relatively new concept to Malaysians, Ooi also encourages diners of Crab Factory to satisfy their primal instinct by putting down their utensils and instead dive in with their bare hands. Of course, eating using hands is not alien to Malaysians, but to do it in a classy restaurant atmosphere makes the entire dining experience more relaxed and convivial. Some even say it heightens your sense of taste, fosters better connection with your food, and creates bonding among other fellow diners.
To the uninitiated, here’s how it works at Crab Factory: customers choose their shellfish, select a seasoning (Zesty Lemon, Garlic Butter, Jamba Jamba, Signature Southern Bang, Creamy Lemak, Thai Sambal and Spicy Plum) to go with it and choose between four levels of spiciness ranging from mild, medium and O’ly Crab to Death Valley. Ooi personally advised me that for a first-timer, it’s best to go with mild, just enough to tease the taste buds but not to overpower the chosen shellfish. Sides like chicken sausages, potatoes, corn or mushrooms go in the bag too at an additional cost.
After 15 minutes or so, our orders – one seafood set of big meat crab with mild Signature Southern Bang sauce (RM175) and a seafood bag of yabbies and Hamaguri clams with garlic butter sauce – arrived hot and steamy, all laid out onto thin piece of oil paper on the table.
“Would this blow my mind?” I initially wondered.
Upon my first bite, I must say yes!
The crabs and yabbies were succulent, sweet and tender; far superior to those that I’ve eaten some time ago. The undeniably excellent seasonings – which enhance the flavour of the seafood – burst with spices and flavours. Ooi was right: mild sauces do make seafood tastes better. Of course, it requires extra effort to open some of the thick tough shells, and the actions of ripping heads from bodies and sucking out the juices surely don’t look pretty, but the carnal mess is all worth it.
A side order of gumbo (RM14.90) is silky and spot-on too, while the golden-brown fried mini Mantao (RM9.90) makes a great add-on to sopping up every last drop of the sauces. Since all of them are so tasty, I’ve promised myself to come again and try some other sets; the French Brown Crab Seafood Set (MYR239) or the King Crab Seafood Set (MYR299), perhaps?
Mind you, having to spend roughly MYR80 to MYR120 per person (depending on the chosen seafood) is not cheap, but you will be eating extensive selections of really delicious, juiciest, meatiest shellfishes at just one sitting. Ooi sources most of the seafood from a local supplier, except for a few types of shellfish, therefore charged according to the prevailing market prices.
However, for diners on tight budget, they should try Crab Factory’s Happy Hour Combo Specials offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. that cost between MYR29 to MYR58 per set. Also, the restaurant offers kids meals at RM12.90 per set, featuring tempura prawns or fish cakes with sautéed vegetables, mashed potatoes or fries and a bottle of Tropicana Twister Orange juice.
All in all, with its outstanding options and creative owner who gets the whole thing right, the Crab Factory is certainly one of the better seafood places in town. Don’t worry about looking like a complete savage here; bibs are provided so that diners can still maintain their decorum. After all, some of the most glorious, messy indulgent foods are just meant to be eaten with bare hands. So, get ready to roll up your sleeves and put on your bibs when you dine at the Crab Factory!
Crab Factory opens from 3:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. on Tuesdays to Thursdays, and from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. from Fridays until Sundays. The restaurant is closed on Mondays. Customers of the restaurant are entitled to complimentary parking at a nearby parking space.
* On February and March 2017, as part of its ‘Monthly Crazy Bag’ promotion, Crab Factory offers 25% off for every 500 grams of Freshwater Prawns.
21, Jalan SS2/64, 47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
T: +6 03 7865 5850