A reader asked me recently for a recommendation for a good seafood restaurant at Pier 39 in San Francisco. Coincidentally, I had been looking at my list of restaurants I’d still yet to post a review of, and this place was on the list… the thing that really brings this cute lil anecdote together was the conversation I’d had with my b. the week before, while eating crabcakes, about where his favorite ever crabcake was to be had…
What did he respond?
Crab House at Pier 39! I introduced him to this place on his first trip (my third) to San Francisco in February 05, and since then, he’s gone back twice, bringing coworkers each time to rave about the crabcakes. His coworkers have whined about how expensive the place is, compared to the multitude of stalls surrounding Fisherman’s Wharf, where you can get loads of really cheap seafood (from fried shrimp and fish&chips to whole dungeness crab and various chowders, right on the street), only to shut the hell up after tasting the crabcakes at Crab House.
We started off our meal with the crabcake appetizer, which is served with a sauce drizzled on top and sweet pickles underneath. Now, what makes these crabcakes unique and my b’s favorite is that they’re made with dungeness crab meat. Dungeness is a lot finer, sweeter, and softer than blue crab (for all of my East Coast readers who may have never had dungeness). The meat pulls apart super easily, almost to a shredded texture, which is why my b. loves it so. These were fried to a crispy texture and the sauce went great with the taste. Oh, and it was all meat, not a lot of breadcrumbs whatsoever; the thing that makes a good blue crab crabcake is the giant lumps of crab meat loosely held together with, say, egg, breadcrumbs, etc., but since my b. doesn’t like lumps, the dungeness suits him fine. So you may prefer blue crab crabcakes for the same reason my b. prefers the dungeness.
For me, I LOVE crabs in general and am always keen on eating them, even whole. I’ve had the pleasure of trying even Jonah crabs (which I believe are plentiful in Florida, a state I’ve never set foot in yet) through London Lennie’s (Queens, NY) crab fest which takes place in October (see my review of London Lennie’s here without pictures). Of course, when you’re on the West Coast, you have dungeness crabs!
My first experience with dungeness crabs non-Asian style (I have had it once over garlic noodles that taste so Italian, at a Chinese restaurant in NY somewhere, but haven’t been able to find that ever again, and I was 10) was actually at Crab House, back in 2001 with my family. We’d been walking around Fisherman’s Wharf and wanted something to eat, and were looking at the menus posted outside of each restaurant there. We happened to find Crab House, which is towards the back so it’s not front and center, and we felt it wasn’t too much of a tourist trap (this IS Fisherman’s Wharf, after all). We wound up ordering this whole feast for 4 people, and my brother who at the time didn’t normally deign – like many guys – to eat crab whole, loved it and was tearing down himself!
When I decided to accompany my b. to San Francisco on a business trip in February 05, I immediately thought of two restaurants I wanted to revisit: Ana Mandara, and Crab House. The whole dungeness crab was prominent in my mind. I wanted it. I needed it.
I wasn’t disappointed.
This was perfectly cooked, the sauce complementing the sweet meat perfectly. The smallest size is actually 1 lb. plus of crab, but as I’m not a huge fan of claws/legs of crabs, I opted to go larger to get the whole crab. I was super stuffed at the end, but it was so worth it. My b. barely had two bites, since he’s not a huge fan of straight up seafood, (I know, yes, he does love crabcakes though). This was so good that looking at these pictures, over a year after I took them, I am thinking about when I can get back to San Francisco to eat these again.
Afterwards, my b. was still hungry of course so he opted for dessert- tiramisu. He seemed to like it, though I was way too stuffed to even have a bite- and tiramisu is my favorite, hands down, all time favorite Italian dessert. The homemade whipped cream on on top seemed a nice touch, with a raspberry sauce drizzled over the top.
Yvo says: Definitely, definitely, definitely go here if you like seafood/crabs. I’ve yet to try other dishes here, perhaps if I lived in the area I would try something other than the whole dungeness crab, but I’m always on a limited time frame, so I have to go for what I like. The prices aren’t cheap, but I think it’s well worth it. I didn’t go much into the rest of the restaurant- but the decor is great, very cute (you’ll see what I mean!), the ambiance/atmosphere is very casual, although at night, dressy clothing would be suitable. The staff is friendly and very much a representation of the people who live in San Francisco, and both times I went there, I sat by the windows which overlooks the water and docks where the sea lions like to lay in the sun. Awesome. You can enjoy the sea lions without the smell, while you indulge in fantastic food. Go here!