Posts Tagged ‘Crabs’

Nick’s Steak and Seafood – Hilton Head, SC

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 by virginia

Nick’s Steak and Seafood is the sort of generic seafood restaurant that you’ll find all over Hilton Head. We’ve eaten there before, many many years ago, and now we know why we didn’t go back. What lured us in this time was the all you can eat snow crab legs, in which several people in our party partook. But our meal got off to a bad start when Josh asked our server what fish was local, and the response was, “Umm..nothing?” I guess we have to give points for honesty!

Nevertheless, I started with a bowl of she crab soup, which I hoped would be somewhat local, given that it’s a lowcountry specialty. The soup I got was very creamy and not much else. There wasn’t any discernible crab flavor, and it was actually incredibly greasy on top. It was so bad that I sent it back, something I generally never do, because I was convinced they had given me the wrong soup, or had forgotten to stir it before they served it to me. The she crab soup other people at our table received didn’t look anything like mine, and theirs at least had some crab in it. I got back pretty much the same bowl though, and our server said it was just a new batch of soup. I don’t know what that meant, but it wasn’t a good bowl of soup.

She crab soup

She crab soup

Rather than do all you can eat crab, Josh and I shared two pounds of snow crab legs (I think it was about $25 for two pounds and $35 for all you can eat) and the captain’s platter. The snow crab legs were steamed and were just ok. They didn’t seem super fresh in the sense that the shells didn’t have a good snap to them and the meat got stuck inside. When snow crab legs are prepared nicely, we can easily extract the meat whole. They tasted fine though. We also got to pick a potato side (we opted for fries), and it came with the vegetable of the day (green beans).

Steamed snow crab legs

Steamed snow crab legs

We chose the fried version of the captain’s platter, which featured tilapia, shrimp, and scallops. The tilapia was pretty mushy, both inside and out, and the scallops tasted a tad fishy. The shrimp were the best part of the plate, with relatively big pieces that weren’t too overcooked. It also came with a choice of potato (we picked fries again) and the house vegetable.

Captain's platter with fried shrimp, tilapia, and scallops

Captain’s platter with fried shrimp, tilapia, and scallops

Overall, we thought the food at Nick’s was pretty disappointing. From start to finish, our food was pretty poorly executed and bland in flavor. The only thing I could really see coming here for is the bar, as they had decent beers on tap and a Steelers theme going on. But it’s far from a dining destination, and I doubt that we’ll be making a return visit any time soon.

Nick’s Steak and Seafood
9 Park Lane
Hilton Head Island, SC

Red Fish Grill – New Orleans

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 by virginia


The Red Fish Grill, a Ralph Brennan restaurant, was recommended to us by a friend of a friend. After we gorged on five dozen oysters at Luke Restaurant during happy hour, we were feeling pretty full and unmotivated to do anything too wild. We walked around the French Quarter for a while, listened to some live music while standing around on Bourbon Street, and then tried to pop into the Red Fish Grill for a late dinner. It was still pretty hopping in there, but the vibe was still casual and low key, so we put our names down, took another loop around the Quarter, and then settled at the bar with some Abita beers to wait for our table.

Fortunately we weren’t waiting there for too long before our number popped up, and after we settled our tab, we moved over to the main dining area. It’s a tall, airy space with large Alexander Calder-esque fish mobiles hanging from the ceilings. After debating for a while on what to order (the menu choices are actually a bit limited), we tore into the crusty french bread that was cleverly served in a white paper bag. The bread was wonderful, with a crispy crust that shattered nicely and an airy, chewy interior.

Crusty french bread

Crusty french bread

Josh had his eye on the BBQ blue crab claws so we split an order for our appetizer. His inspiration was the crab claws Provencale that we had at Arnaud’s during our last trip. While we were disappointed with our overall meal at Arnaud’s, Josh loved those buttery, garlicky claws with a dash of Pernod that paired so well with the crab flavor. Sadly, these were nothing like those  claws. Part of the issue was that we misunderstood what New Orleans style barbecue means, which does not refer to grilled or smoked, but rather, cooked in a sauce comprised mostly of butter, Worcestershire sauce, and creole seasoning. We didn’t know that at the time, and so we were a bit perplexed when we received breaded crab claws that had either been fried or baked, sitting in a bowl of  brownish sauce that tasted mostly of butter and unidentifiable seasonings. We didn’t love the sauce, which didn’t have a lot of discernible flavor, and the crab meat got a bit lost under the breading. My favorite part of the dish was cheddar scallion biscuit on the side, which hard and dense but softened up when soaked into the buttery sauce, and had a nice cheesy taste. I was not a fan of this appetizer in general, and although Josh didn’t dislike it as much as I did, he conceded that it didn’t compare to Arnaud’s crab claws.

BBQ blue crab claws with

BBQ crab claws with cheddar-scallion drop biscuits

Our confusion regarding New Orleans style barbecue also translated into our entree order of BBQ shrimp and grits. While this time the shrimp did seem like it had been grilled, the dish was covered in the same brownish barbecue sauce as the crab claws. However, in this case, the sauce worked. The buttery sauce acted as a gravy and bound the shrimp with the cream cheese grits underneath. The shrimp were well seasoned, and I appreciated that they kept the heads on, which is my favorite part. On the downside, I was surprised to see that the fried green tomatoes had been cut up and were mixed in with the shrimp and sauce, as they got a bit lost in the mix.

BBQ Gulf shrimp and grits with fried green tomatoes

BBQ Gulf shrimp and grits with fried green tomatoes

For our other entree, we picked the black drum, a local fish. It was grilled and served with bacon braised brussels sprouts, roasted portobella mushrooms, and a charred tomato lobster beurre blanc. The drum was very meaty though mild tasting. The sauce prevented it from getting dry, but I didn’t detect much lobster flavor. I was also surprised and disappointed to see only two and half brussels sprouts on the plate, and they didn’t taste much like bacon. The mushrooms were a nice accompaniment though and added a bit of bulk to the dish.

Wood grilled black drum with brussels sprouts and portobella mushrooms

Wood grilled black drum with brussels sprouts and portobella mushrooms

Josh surprised me by ordering dessert at the start of our meal, since we weren’t that hungry to begin with, and we’re generally not dessert people. He got the double chocolate bread pudding, which needs to be ordered in advance rather than at the end of the meal because it takes 20 minutes to prepare. I think he was inspired to order bread pudding because we both had been dreaming about the creole bread pudding souffle with warm whiskey cream from Commander’s Palace that we ate on our previous trip. We had hoped to make it back there this time around for their incredible lunch specials and 25 cent martinis but ultimately decided that it would probably be too upscale for J to enjoy. This bread pudding was very different in that it was chocolate based, not vanilla, but it was still pretty delicious in its own right. The middle of the bread pudding was soft and fluffy, similar to chocolate souffle, while the edges were crispier and chewier. Although we didn’t ask for it with ice cream, it was brought to us a la mode with vanilla ice cream on top. We were a bit annoyed that they charged us more for that when we didn’t order it, but the ice cream was a good addition and helped to cut through the richness of the chocolate. White and dark chocolate ganache was poured over the top table-side, making it a truly decadent and chocolatey experience.

Double chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream

Double chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and white and dark chocolate ganache

Overall, I was slightly disappointed with our meal at the Red Fish Grill. I think I was just expecting a bit more, and the food was really sort of meh; not bad, not great. The restaurant has received a lot of accolades, and it was recommended to us by a local, so perhaps my expectations were set too high. Even though our appetizer and entrees were properly prepared and nicely presented, none of the dishes wowed us with flavor. There was just a slight chain restaurant vibe to everything, which made the prices a bit of a shock. There was only one seafood entree under $20 (catfish and shrimp creole at $18), with the rest ranging from $25-$33. Appetizers were a bit more reasonable at $7-$9 for soups and salads and $9-$10 for starters. A dozen raw oysters was $15. Portions were decent but not huge. I was also a bit surprised by how limited the menu was. There were only six seafood entree choices, plus one chicken and one steak entree. It’s definitely a fish-centric restaurant, so if you’re dining with people who are seafood-averse, they won’t have much to choose from. I did like the atmosphere though, casual and bustling, and I might hang out at the bar once in a while if I lived in New Orleans. As a visitor, however, I didn’t find the food very special, and it’s not someplace that I would plan on going back to the next time we’re in town. There are so many other places with better food at cheaper prices, and I just don’t think it’s worth it.

Red Fish Grill
115 Bourbon St.
New Orleans, LA

Skull Creek Boathouse – Hilton Head, SC

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 by virginia


Skull Creek Boathouse was a new Hilton Head restaurant for me and Josh, although we’ve eaten at other restaurants run by the same group (One Hot Mama’s, Giuseppi’s Pizza & Pasta). We had to wait a while to be seated due to the large size of our party, and we still ended up splitting up into two tables, though they were side by side.

The menu is pretty huge, but given that the restaurant is right on the water, we decided to stick with mainly seafood. For our table, we shared an order of the Boathouse Sampler, which came with coconut shrimp, deviled crab balls, calamari, and hush puppies. There was a good amount of food in the sampler, which made it easy for us to taste most things. My favorites were the crab balls, which weren’t spicy but had a decent amount of crab flavor to it, and the hush puppies, which we liberally dipped into the accompanying honey butter. Everything on the platter is fried though, which is kind of hard to mess up. To their credit, everything was hot, crispy, and not overly greasy.


Boathouse Sampler – coconut shrimp, deviled crab balls, calamari, and hush puppies

Josh also wanted an order of fried pickle chips, which were served with a spicy ranch dressing for dipping. These were pretty good – briny, crunchy, and the breading on the outside didn’t overwhelm the pickle chip on the inside.

Fried pickle chips

Fried pickle chips

For whatever reason, I really wanted soup that night even though it was 90+ degrees outside. I’ll blame pregnancy cravings. Nevertheless, the SCB seafood chowder was worth tasting, so I was glad that I ordered it. It was like New England clam chowder, but with crab, shrimp, fish, scallops, and potatoes. The seafood was chopped up into small pieces so it was a bit hard to discern what was what, but it still had a pleasant seafood flavor. The soup wasn’t as thick or heavy as regular clam chowder, but it was still creamy and rich, with a buttery finish.

SCB Chowder

SCB seafood chowder

The chowder and tastes from the sampler platter were more than enough food for me, so I was pretty full by the time our main courses arrived. I ordered the Royal Seafood Sampler, which let me try three different dishes – coco seared sea scallops, a “salt and vinegar” crab cake, and stuffed jumbo shrimp. It was a lot of food, and I barely made a dent in the plate, but I liked being able to taste so many different things. The scallops had a tropical flavor to them, as they were topped with coconut butter and pineapple salsa. They had a nice brown sear on each side but I think they sat for a little while and wound up being a little chewy on the outside rather than crispy. The crab cake didn’t have too much salt and vinegar flavor, but there was a good amount of crab and little filler. The stuffed shrimp were my least favorite, as the deviled crab stuffing was too heavy and the shrimp were overcooked. I wound up packing up most of my plate in a doggie bag and eating it for lunch the next day.

Royal seafood platter

Royal seafood sampler – coco seared sea scallops, a “salt and vinegar” crab cake, and stuffed jumbo shrimp

Josh ordered the Seafood Extravaganza, which is basically a seafood boil with shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, snow crab legs, sausage, potatoes, and corn. There was a decent amount of seafood, but it must’ve been sitting in the pot for a while because it was all slightly overcooked and a bit soggy. The shellfish was chewy, and there wasn’t enough spices in the broth to liven up the dish. It’s too bad, because the seafood itself seemed relatively fresh, it just wasn’t well prepared.

Seafood extravaganza -

Seafood extravaganza – shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, snow crab legs, sausage, potatoes, and corn

Overall I had a mixed impression of the Skull Creek Boathouse. The food was decent, but nothing earth shattering. I don’t think that’s what they’re aiming for though. It has a bit of a chain restaurant vibe to it, but I liked the casualness of the place. The restaurant was pretty bustling, with lots of families and other big groups dining. The vast menu makes it easy to dine out with lots of people with different tastes – there’s something for everyone. Even though the main focus seems to be seafood, they do have steaks and other meats available. Prices go from low to high, depending on what you order. Appetizers are generally just  below the $10 mark (minus the sampler platter), and entrees can range from about $15-$35. They also have some good beers on tap and pretty reasonably priced wines and cocktails. Is it a must-go dining destination? No, I don’t think so. But it’s good for groups and the food is passable. It’s a place I can see coming back to for a few drinks and sharing some snacks.

Skull Creek Boathouse
397 Squire Pope Road
Hilton Head, SC

New Years Banquet at Zen Peninsula

Sunday, January 10th, 2010 by virginia

After we got back to the Bay Area, Claire and Sean dropped us off at my godparents house, which was about 20 minutes away from their apartment. I was thrilled to be able to meet up with my godparents for dinner before our flight from SF back to Newark. I hadn’t seen my godmother since our wedding in May 2008, and my godfather since the last time we were in California, in October 2005. They graciously arranged for us to have a New Years banquet dinner at a Chinese restaurant near their home called Zen Peninsula.

The restaurant was a pretty big and grand space, perfect for large banquets and wedding parties. It was decorated in similar style to restaurants in NYC Chinatown such as Jing Fong and the Golden Unicorn. There were 10 of us dining altogether so we had a big round table with a lazy susan in the middle. The meal started off in typical Chinese banquet fashion, with a platter of assorted meats sliced into small pieces. There was juicy bbq pork, slices of either pork or duck (Josh and I couldn’t agree on it but I still think it was pork) with super crispy skin on top, compacted tofu skin, and jellyfish.

A little taste of everything - jellyfish, compacted tofu skin, roast pork or duck with super crackly skin, and bbq pork

Funny story about jellyfish – if you’ve never tried it, it kind of looks like long, thick rice noodles, and has sort of a gelatinous, crunchy texture. For our wedding rehearsal dinner, we had a big banquet at Jing Fong where our meal started off with a similar platter of meats surrounding a huge pile of jellyfish. Most of Josh’s family and friends had never eaten or seen jellyfish before so they all thought it was noodles or some sort of vegetable, and gobbled up the entire serving. It was only later when they found out they had eaten jellyfish that they denied liking it, but the empty platter doesn’t lie!

Back to our dinner at Zen Peninsula, our next course was shark fin soup. It was served in a mild, clean-tasting, yet rich soup. The pieces of shark fin had a soft, loose texture, a bit similar to shreds of scallop or stingray.

Shark fin soup

Next was one of my favorites, peking duck. The pieces of duck were served with soft steam buns, scallions, cucumbers, and hoisin sauce.

Peking duck in a steamed bun

I was shocked when I saw the size of lobster in the following course. It was huge! It must have been at least five pounds, and was chopped up into large pieces that were battered with salt and pepper and deep fried. The meat was still moist and tender.

Giant lobster head

We also had a large dungeness crab that was battered and deep fried. I snagged one of the legs, which was sweet and flavorful.

Fried dungeness crab

A dish of vegetables followed, filled with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, tofu skin, and what I think were ginko seeds. They’re the yellow round things and had a soft texture and a mild nutty flavor.

Assorted vegetables

Then we had a big platter of poached chicken surrounded by a bitter green vegetable. It was a simple dish but the meat had a very concentrated and deep chicken flavor.

Poached chicken with a bitter green vegetable

Next we had even more lobster, this time in a ginger scallion sauce.

Lobster in ginger scallion sauce

Then fried rice with pork and shrimp.

Pork and shrimp fried rice

Our last savory course was something that I’ve never had before, a braised lamb dish in a hot pot with assorted vegetables. The lamb wasn’t very gamey but the whole dish and a really interesting and complex flavor that was kind of hard to describe. Our waiter would come by every so often to reheat the pot and add in a few more vegetables.

Braised lamb in a hot pot

For dessert, we had mango pudding, which was the best mango pudding that I’ve ever tasted. It was like a thick and rich jello consistency, and the mango flavor was really intense. It actually did taste like mangoes, which surprised me since most other mango puddings have an artificial taste to them.

Delicious mango pudding

Then we had some Chinese petit fours, which were a small roasted bun with a sweet paste filling, a square of mochi covered in coconut, and a small, dense almond cookie.

Roasted bun with sweet paste, mochi covered in coconut, almond cookie

Last but not least, we had a traditional New Year dessert, nian gao, which is like a sticky crepe made with rice flour and was filled with crushed peanuts. It was sweet and salty with lots of interesting texture to it.

Sticky dessert crepe with crushed peanuts

After the feast, I went to look at the fish tanks in the front that held some of the fresh seafood we had eaten during our meal. There was a tank full of ginormous lobsters.

Ginormous lobster in a tank full of ginormous lobsters

And one with huge dungeness crabs.

Dungeness crabs

King crabs with super long legs.

Live king crabs

Some freaky and scary looking eels.

Scary looking eel

And some giant prawns that were bigger than my hand.

Giant prawns

Overall I really enjoyed the banquet meal that we had at Zen Peninsula. The food was delivered at an even pace, and all of the dishes were hot and freshly prepared. Seafood is obviously one of their specialties, based on the dishes we had and the large tanks they had out front. My favorite courses of the evening were the two lobster courses (who doesn’t love good lobster?) and the peking duck. The best part of the meal, however, was being able to catch up with my godparents. I get to see them so rarely and each time is a wonderful treat. I feel so honored and thankful that they held off on their New Years banquet for a few days because they knew that Josh and I would be in town that weekend. It was a great end to a really great trip.

Zen Peninsula
1180 El Camino Real
Millbrae, CA

Vegas Day 3 – Bellagio Champagne Brunch

Sunday, June 7th, 2009 by virginia


You can’t go to Vegas and not eat at a buffet, so I did some research beforehand and settled on the champagne brunch at the Bellagio. It was in the middle of the range in terms of price, not as expensive as the Sterling brunch at Ballys and not as cheap as some of the brunches at the less extravagant hotels, and the reviews all seemed pretty favorable.

We arrived at noon and there was a HUGE line to get inside. It turned out that there were only two cashiers working the line (you pre-pay before you go in), which is kind of stupid in my opinion since that was the hold-up; the dining area itself was pretty empty. So we ended up waiting in line for about an hour before we finally got in and were seated.

Fortunately our waitress stopped by right away to offer us drinks. We both got champagne, of course, as well as orange juice, which is all included if you opt for the champagne brunch (opting for no champagne is only a few dollars cheaper, so it doesn’t make sense not to get it, unless you’re underage!).

Pretty decent cava (Spanish sparking wine)

Pretty decent cava (Spanish sparking wine)

We did a quick walk through of the buffet area to see what was offered. Josh stuck with breakfast for his first plate, as the omelet line was very short. He took the omelet chef’s recommendation and went for a crab and shrimp omelet with veggies and cheese – it was pretty good!

Crab and shrimp omelet

Crab and shrimp omelet

I went for a more eclectic first plate, trying little bits of lots of things to figure out what I liked. I had a mini bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onion, and tomato, which was pretty decent (though the bagel was kind of bad), pizza, mashed potatoes, beef tenderloin, leg of lamb, prime rib, and shrimp cocktail. The carved meats weren’t so great – I got an end piece of the lamb and it was horribly overcooked, and the beef tenderloin was pretty much bad hotel food. The prime rib was ok though, as the fattiness helped keep it rare and moist. The pizza was exactly what you would expect from buffet pizza, but since I took it knowing that, it actually wasn’t too bad. The shrimp cocktail was really good and tasted fresh. The shrimp were pretty large and cooked perfectly.

My eclectic first plate

My eclectic first plate

For my second plate I went with all things Asian – chicken with black bean sauce, Singapore style noodles, duck curry, sushi, thai summer roll, and a spicy tuna hand roll.

My asian-themed second plate

My asian-themed second plate

Josh also tried the summer roll and the hand rolls, and added in the shrimp cocktail that I raved about, as well as a slice of pizza.

Josh's second plate

Josh's second plate

Josh moved on to dessert at this point, with soft serve ice cream and a collection of pastries.

Cream puffs, eclair, strawberry tart

Cream puffs, eclair, strawberry tart

I did something kind of gross and had a mixed plate, with cream puffs, a summer roll, a hand roll, and a piece of french toast topped with smoked salmon and syrup (remember my fun with leftovers?). What can I say, I do love mixing my sweet with savory.

Another eclectic plate

Another eclectic plate

I also had a side dish of peach and raspberry yogurt, but these weren’t so great. They tasted very artificial and were a bit too icy.

Peach and raspberry yogurt

Peach and raspberry yogurt

Since we got into the buffet an hour later than we intended, and we ended up eating and drinking a lot more than we intended, we actually overlapped from brunch into the early dinner service, and they started bringing out the dinner foods. We nabbed a plate of crab legs, which weren’t really that great. The snow crab legs were ok, but the king crab legs were tiny and obviously frozen, as they still had chunks of ice in them. Totally not worth it, so I’m glad we didn’t do the dinner buffet as it is more expensive.

Sad king crab and snow crab legs

Sad king crab and snow crab legs

Service was really great, especially for a buffet. Our plates were cleared quickly, and they were very free-pouring with the champagne. No one tried to rush us or kick us out as brunch was ending. In fact, our waitress told us she was off after the brunch shift and brought us a full bottle of champagne right before she left so we could continue pouring drinks for ourselves even after brunch was officially over. At this point, however, we had our fill so we shared our bottle with the table next to us. We stumbled out full and happy.

Overall the food wasn’t spectacular, but it’s a buffet and we weren’t expecting gourmet stuff. If you take it for what it is, there is a lot of great variety and you can just stick with the things you like. The champagne at this brunch is pretty decent, a spanish cava that isn’t too sweet and isn’t too dry. The champagne brunch costs $25, and is a nice way to spend a few hours eating and drinking until you hit your limit.

The Buffet
At the Bellagio
Las Vegas, NV