Crawfish King gets messy with Cajun seafood in Richmond

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      If you’re going to dine at the Crawfish King restaurant in Richmond, don’t wear white. That’s because there’s no telling where the red’n’spicy sauce will fling when you’re cracking into a crawfish boil. Wearing a plastic bib is part of the fun, but even then, you’re going to get your hands dirty—not to mention your arms and chin, too.

      A Richmond strip mall probably isn’t the first place one would expect to find a Louisiana seafood restaurant. Crawfish King (#165-8460 Alexandra Road, 604-284- 5464) is owned by Trieu Dinh, who moved from Houston, Texas, to open up Crawfish King in Seattle. He opened the Richmond restaurant in May, but it doesn’t yet have a website.

      I was a guest at a July media event where I checked out the casual, nautical-themed restaurant. Fishing nets hang on the wall, brown paper covers the tables, and rolls of paper towels await sticky fingers. The menu features Southern specialties such as jambalaya, gumbo, fried okra, and crawfish etouffee. Many of the dishes are served in disposable containers, in keeping with the picnic-like (but not very environmentally-friendly) theme.

      Crawfish King's gumbo.

      The sides are, well, secondary, as the main attraction is the seafood boil. Customers order their shellfish by the pound (market prices are posted on the board; see below) and can choose from crustaceans such as crab, shrimp, and lobster. It all gets boiled up and then doused in your choice of sauce, such as Cajun sauce or garlic butter.

      Most seafood is sold by the pound at market prices, which change daily.

      The level of spice is also up to you, and you can add in corn and potatoes for an extra charge. The whole mess gets delivered to your table in a plastic bag.

      You can order your crawfish spicy or mild.

      For those unfamiliar with them, crawfish are freshwater crustaceans that are also known as crayfish, crawdads, and mudbugs. Seachoice rates the farmed variety from the U.S. as a sustainable seafood option. Crawfish King’s manager Chi Lee says the restaurant flies the critters in live from Louisina or California every two days.

      While this crawfish might look like a lobster, it's only about three inches long.

      While crawfish resemble lobsters, they’re small like prawns; the ones we had varied greatly in size, from perhaps two to four inches long. There’s not a lot of meat in them, and you have to really work to get it, sucking the juices out of the head and cracking into the claws. If you don’t have the patience for this, you’re better off ordering the local live prawns or Manila clams, which deliver an easier, more toothsome experience.

      Spicy prawns are also served in a bag.

      Or, just take your time and consider it a challenge. And don’t say we didn’t warn you about that white shirt.

      Follow Carolyn Ali on Twitter at