San Francisco Dining: Crustacean Restaurant

Crustacean is an Asian seafood restaurant located at the top of the Plaza. And by top, I mean the third floor of a building whose elevator wasn’t working on the day of our visit.

Known for serving the best quality crabs and seafood, when I asked my friend E. where she wanted to go to dinner, she didn’t hesitate: Crustacean.

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The restaurant is famous for its crab, which is prepared three ways: roasted (garlicky and the most popular), Drunken and Tamarind.

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The restaurant is also revered for their garlic noodles. Although, I actually don’t eat noodles, I was anxious to try them.

The crab recipes and garlic noodles are actually highly kept secret recipes, have their own section on the menu and are actually prepared in a separate, secret kitchen!!

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According to the restaurant’s website, The Secret Kitchen is a unique architectural feature that exists in all of the An Family restaurants. The Secret Kitchen is a completely enclosed kitchen located within the restaurant’s main kitchen. This kitchen is off limits to everyone. The only people allowed to enter are An family members. Helene, the owner and founder of the restaurant considers her family recipes her daughter’s inheritance. She left Vietnam with nothing and only had her recipes to pass along to her daughters. When she realized that her restaurant was a success she built the Secret Kitchen to protect their integrity, and thus, her children’s inheritance.

I am completely uninterested in breaking open crabmeat and digging for my food so I watched my friend enjoy her Roasted Crab and I ordered prawns.

I had a bit of hers and thought it tasted good. My brother, who knows his way around a crab, would have been a good guest at dinner. I thought the crabs were large, juicy and tasty.

The prawns were garlicky, buttery and yummy and came with the house specialty, garlic noodles. All of the food was good. I thought the noodles were a little cold, but delicious nonetheless.

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Crustaceans is one of several restaurants owned by the An family. My friend attended UCLA and had dined at their more formal restaurant in Beverly Hills. She commented that in comparison to that property, and the family’s more casual other restaurant, Thanh Long, Crustaceans seemed overpriced and underwhelming.

Indeed, the carpet was dirty and run down, and unfortunately, there was only one toilet for women–a huge miss at a restaurant that’s expensive and popular. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to dine at Crustaceans. It’s a California institution. I’d return and try Tanh Long with my brother, who loves crab. But as we walked down three flights of stairs because the building’s elevator didn’t work, I resolved that I wouldn’t return to Crustaceans, having eaten there once already. It’s rundown and overpriced. Next time, try Tanh Long.

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  • cteachr

    Salivating over here…