Visayas Avenue in Quezon City isn’t exactly the top of mind destination for fresh crabs and shrimps. Unlike by-the-bay ‘dampa’ complexes, this long stretch of road traverses quiet residential blocks and is far from any natural body of water where crabs can live.
Yet quite a number of QC residents drive to #77 Visayas Avenue when craving crabs. Their destination: Crab n’ Crew Restobar. Their purpose: to partake fresh crabs cooked in unique, made-from-scratch sauces, without shelling out too much money.
Crab n’ Crew is a joint effort of five business partners (a chef and cabin crew members, hence, ‘crab n’ crew’) who recognize the lack of quality seafood restaurant in the area—specifically one that serves cook to order crabs and shrimps. Chef Zach Puno, who was there when I first visited, said “there are very few places where you can eat crabs. And among these few places, a lot are expensive.”
Crabs here at Crab n’ Crew are sold at P100/100g. Shrimps on the other hand are P125/100g. These prices are already inclusive of the cooking fee. “Since we source crabs direct from the farmers, we are able to sell crab dishes at much cheaper prices than the similar ones served in the more commercial, multi-branched seafood restaurants,” he added.
Aside from the relatively lower price point, Chef Zach also prides himself on the crab and shrimp sauces they make in-house. “When you go out and eat crabs-- at least from my experience-- it’s very rare to find dishes that are unique. It’s usually, buttered, garlicky, or chili right? We offer something different.”
There’s Mariah Curry, which obviously use curry sauce as base. There’s also the fiery Crab 6.9, with spicy tomato sauce and bell pepper. A personal favorite is ‘Peanut Butter Sus… ang sarap’. Think: the baby of satay sauce and thick gata (coconut milk). Crab in Black, with oyster sauce and sesame oil, has oriental leanings. Cajun-Jun is Southern U.S. style, complete with corn kernels. Crab Marites, Miyerkules, Huwebes, Biyernes uses olive oil and garlic flakes. And Ren Mente Verde is basically pesto-cream sauce. Mr. Crabab, your basic deep-fried crab, is more for the conservatives. It comes with three dips: spicy vinegar, honey mustard, and butter lemon. “Some people still like their crabs sans sauce,” Chef Zach explained.
All sauces can be ordered to complement shrimps as well
Shrimp in 'Peanut Butter Sus... ang sarap'
Shrimp in Pesto-cream Sauce
But surpassing these eight flavors (at least in terms of sales) are two bestsellers: Crab Tisoy and Szech-One, Two, Three, Smile. Crab Tisoy is crab, swimming in cream with cheese sauce, then topped with bacon bits. If eating crabs makes you feel guilty (and dizzy), then eating Crab Tisoy will urge you to make penance.
Crab in Szech-One, Two, Three, Smile Sauce
Szech-One, Two, Three, Smile on the other hand is Crab n’ Crews sweet and spicy take on the Szechuan classic. It makes quite a succulent dish—definitely worth getting your hands dirty.
Chef Zach understands that in this cuisine, freshness is chief. So Crab n’ Crew houses live crabs. “We don’t freeze the crabs. We don’t cook them in advance. We put the crabs in the boiler only upon order. You can even request to see the crab before you order them.” Chef Zach leaves for a while, and then returns with a fidgeting crab culled from a tank in the kitchen.
Since some people are allergic to crabs and shrimps, Chef Zach included non-crustacean items in the menu. There are rice bowl promos for those who are looking for quick and affordable lunches. There’s also the tender rack of char-grilled, Baby Back Ribs, a steal at P395. Cis-sig (P195), contributed by Crab n’ Crew’s Chef Francis, is very traditional take on sisig complete with pig’s brain and all.
Baby Back Ribs
A couple of pastas are also thrown in the very long menu. Aligue Pasta (P165), as expected, is an option. But the oily Tinapasta (P175) makes the better statement.
Leche Flan for dessert!
From as far as I’ve seen and tasted, Crab n’ Crew Restobar shows a lot of promise. The resto is small and pleasantly bare-- a minimalist melee of cement, wood, and metal furnishing. The staff is young and eager, attentive enough to monitor your water glasses. The owners must be aware of this eagerness. No wonder they've featured the crew in what’s very little that’s put into décor: a couple of black and white photos against the high gray walls.
I won’t be too bold and declare that you must completely forget about “dampa” and head to Crab n’ Crew when craving crabs. I won’t hesitate to recommend though that if you’re in QC and hankering fresh crabs, pay this hidey-hole a visit. If the budget-friendly price points and earnest service don't lure you, perhaps the beer-boiled, bacon-topped fresh crab in cheese sauce will. Admit it. It does sound like something you have to try at least once in your lifetime, yes?
Directions: A hole-in-the-wall, Crab n’ Crew is easy to miss when you’re not paying attention. When driving along Visayas Avenue from the QC circle, go past Shell, South Star Drug, and Pizza Hut. Drive for a few more meters and you’ll see Crab n’ Crew on your left, right beside Oliva Bistro Cafe. Make a U-turn and park at the building’s basement.
Update (11/15/2013): You are all enouraged to drop off your donations for Yolanda survivors at Crab n' Crew, from November 16 to 20, 2013.