IN THE KITCHEN
Big boiling pots of seasoned water do the bulk of the work in Shaking Crab’s kitchen. A New England-Asian take on the Cajun seafood boil so popular in the South, Shaking Crab’s main offering is steamed shellfish drenched in one of four sauces and served peel-and-eat style. Co-owner Kevin Duong, 28, and a silent partner conceived the concept. Neither has previous experience in the restaurant world; in fact, they both work in finance and still maintain day jobs in Boston so as not to stress the business by having to draw salaries. The partners opened the first Shaking Crab in Newton in December 2015 and the Quincy outpost in April 2017. With help from a range of investors, they’ve also managed the amazing feat of opening another five in select locations in a little more than two years.
The totally renovated 85-seat restaurant is a casual dining room with big windows, wooden floors, hanging lights, and a small bar. It’s located in a previously empty storefront on Cottage Avenue, just off Hancock Street, in an area of Quincy Center that has become a nexus of excellent eateries.
ON THE MENU
So what you do here is sit at a table full of plastic bags of shrimp, lobster, crawfish, mussels, crab, or another crustacean, don a bib and plastic gloves, peel (or crack) your food, and eat it with your hands. (I love that part.) When the place is packed, the room is a sea of tabletops covered with bags of shellfish. Shaking Crab is interactive in that you have to dig in and excavate your food. It’s engaging and, as Duong likes to say, people have to put their cellphones down to do it.
The menu is easy. You choose which shellfish you want, which of four sauces (Cajun, Seoul, Gulf, or Envie), and whether you want any sides thrown in the mix, such as boiled potatoes. The shellfish goes from the pot to the bag, is topped with sauce, shaken, and delivered to your table. There are also appetizers, sides, and some sandwiches, including po’boys. Chicken wings and tenders ($7-8) are the only non-fish proteins on tap. All the shellfish comes by the pound, so shrimp ends up giving you more edible fish than king crab legs ($35), for instance, because the latter’s shells are heavy. The crawfish ($11) is a tasty bag of steaming bodies drenched in sauce. You get a lot more to eat, though, in an order of the shrimp ($13), which are large and cooked perfectly.
People seem to be really liking the food, but I’m not tasting the heady flavor of that stellar duo all the sauces are based on: butter and garlic. Duong says the kitchen uses only 100 percent butter and chops each day’s garlic every morning. I will, next time, ask for a sauce of simply butter and garlic.
The add-on potatoes ($2) are small rounds of creamy deliciousness. They’re a real deal, and so is the steamed rice ($2). We are mistakenly disappointed when the fried oysters ($11) turn out to be heavily breaded. They are just delicious: The breading protecting the crustaceans from being over-cooked. The gumbo ($4) is a good authentic Cajun stew, but we don’t love the garlic noodles ($6): Shouldn’t they be heaven? The large lobster roll ($18) comes on a great grilled roll with delicious fries and equally good coleslaw. Oh, and I really love the collard greens ($6).
I’m missing something at this place, but a lot of other people seem to love it, so give it a go. It’s fun.
Shaking Crab, 18 Cottage Ave., Quincy, 617-481-0054, www.shakingcrabquincy.com.