The Crab Pot
2 Lake Bellevue Dr
Bellevue WA 98005
Forget the Whales, Save the Crabs
By: Grant Y
It's not everyday that the average Seattleite thinks to take a perfectly good crab and beat it with a mallet. Then again, it's not everyday that you see a large man-made lake sprouting up in the Northeast corner of Bellevue. Perhaps this is the secret recipe for The Crab Pot, which combines the childlike impulse of playing with one's food with the illusion of a backdrop of seafood-laden waters. Unfortunately, as with most illusions, cheap parlor tricks can only go so far.
The Crab Pot experience starts the minute you arrive, as the restaurant is supported by stilts over Lake Bellevue. Built to resemble an old fishing house, you're greeting with carved-wood fishermen and statues as you enter the door. Crab nets, fish tackle, wooden boxes and all forms of seafaring decor dangle from the walls and high arched, wood planked ceilings. A long stretch of window provides a panoramic view of the lake as we walked toward our seats, which really does begin to feel like a genuine waterside experience. Tables and chairs are all of solid dark woods, while booths are black and cushioned.
Rather than creating the setting of a fine dining establishment, The Crab Pot brands itself as a family friendly seafood restaurant. There is a certain element of playfulness, evidenced by the colorful menus, which use kid-style cartoons of edible aquatic life to hook your attention. Items on the menu include burgers, seafood and chips, grilled seafood, ribs, chicken, pasta and The Crab Pot specialty, the "Seafeast" - a literal bucket of food that gets dumped onto the table (requires at least two people). The feast includes a wooden board and mallet for cracking the crab, including a crab cracker and small fork for those averse to the caveman method.
After a look over of the menu, Steve decided to test The Crab Pot on their Salmon Fillet while Trish and I opted for the Westport Feast ($21.95), which included Dungeness crab, snow crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, andouille sausage, corn on the cob and red potatoes. Our orders came out fairly quickly, around the 10 minute mark.
When the bucket came out, it was indeed dumped directly onto the table with a butcher paper lining set underneath. I have to admit my first order of business after donning my bib was to reach for the first piece of Dungeness crab and give it a 180 degree swing and smash with my mallet, to my delight and the dismay of Steve and Trish. Breaking into the first leg however, I realized the crab meat was quite dry and bunched so that there was no need for a mallet whatsoever. In fact, the crab shells were unusually soft, which to even my novice crab cooking skills signaled that the crab had been overcooked.
Sampling the rest of the so-called "feast", I realized that just about every item on the table was as bland and dry as my first crab leg. The corn was a wilted dull yellow, the red potatoes were crumbly, the snow crab shell was soft as a carrot and the sausage was chewy like jerky. Remarkably, there was a complete lack of flavor to any of the food, short of a smattering of salt, paprika and dare I suggest it - even crystalline specks of what appeared to be MSG(?).
At $21.95 a person or $44 for the meal, I could have: driven to Uwajimaya, bought two whole crabs at $8.99/pound (you only get half a crab in the feast), chucked it into a vat of boiling water, tossed in a stick of butter, set the TV to Iron Chef for half an hour, come back to the kitchen, drain said pot, consumed crab and still come out a winner against The Crab Pot. Very disappointing.
This will go down as one of my worst meals in a long time.
There are times when I feel bad for having to sound off on a negative experience, but this one doesn't fall in that category. The salmon fillet seemed like a sensible choice, lightly seasoned and cooked over an open flame with some steamed veggies. I wanted to veer away from the standard choice of the Seafood Feast because I've had it before and the salmon can't be that bad right?
Oh, how wrong I was.
The lightly seasoned part was right: the fish was "lightly seasoned" to the point of having no taste. Hard and rubbery, it had all the signs of the fish being extremely overcooked. The last sign of poor quality was when I cut deep into the middle of the fish only to find albumin (white colored protein that appears when overcooking) throughout the meat. My fears of poorly cooked fish were realized.
I did whatever I could to add some type of taste. I squeezed a lot of lemon juice over the top and dipped pieces in butter, nothing I did helped the taste at all. The vegetables didn't help the cause any as they too were overcooked like their fish counterpart.
At $15.95, I don't recommend this item in any capacity. I've never had such a horrible experience with fish in my life. Crabpot? Maybe they should drop the "b" and replace it with a "p."
I have been to The Crab Pot before and from what I recall, there seemed to be a lot more to the portions at that time. I do not know whether it was because I might have ordered something different then, but this order seemed small.
You would think that the "feast" would feed a starving family of 10 for days but sadly, no, it does not. I doubt it might even feed one person completely. Mind you, you need 2 or more people to be able to order this. This meal was a major disappointment in both quality and quantity and I would not want other diners to have the experience I did. Try somewhere else when you go out for seafood.
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