Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- A free bus shuttles tourists from a subway stop in Carroll Gardens to Brooklyn Crab. The dining room boasts panoramic views of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Waiters are happy to recommend a $98 steamed seafood platter.
This is the most expensive restaurant in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, where my great-grandmother once sold chowder to dock workers.
Brooklyn Crab sells king crab legs for $48. That gets you 24 ounces. Can you order half a pound, like at Jeffrey’s Grocery in the West Village, where my banker buddies eat it for $22? Sorry, Charlie. Not here.
That crustacean limbs, de-shelled elsewhere for less, arrives whole. You reach into a steel pail for crackers, paper plates, and, instead of napkins, a roll of paper towels, which on one occasion were soggy.
As a native Long Islander raised on no-frills seafood spots on Freeport’s Nautical Mile, I have nothing against getting my hands a little wet and dirty. When I’m paying Manhattan prices? I expect Manhattan refinement.
At Brooklyn Crab I ask to eat at the bar, and the host shakes her head, explaining that there’s an hour wait and she doesn’t want to overtax the kitchen. Never mind that fancy, packed restaurants like WD-50, Daniel and Le Bernardin all serve full menus to bar diners.
Then again, when you taste the sandy, undercooked scallops ($23) or the over-fried crab cake ($14), you realize something’s not right.
On slower nights, a full menu is served at the counter, but you might be required to pay-as-you-order.
“Cash only,” says the bartender. You ask to run a tab and she shakes her head. So you go upstairs where they take plastic.
Things don’t get much better. What kind of rum comes with the pina colada? “House rum,” the waiter replies.
Order it with a float of Myers’s. Costs 11 bucks. It’s as thick as a McDonald’s shake. The cream cuts the heat of your habanero pepper dipping sauce, poured from one of hundreds of various bottles lining the dining room.
Any of those sauces will be better than the marinara that accompanies fried calamari ($11). The sauce tastes as if someone had poured a bottle of oregano oil into it.
How about a nice Ommegang Witte to pair with your oysters?
“That’s only available in the downstairs bar,” your waitress says. She pours you a Sixpoint Sweet Action Ale instead, a wheaty, robust blend. Not bad. So you ask for half a dozen oysters, three Malpeques and three Tatums ($18).
“Sorry, the minimum order is six for each oyster.”
The better call is half a dozen raw clams for $9. The bivalves pack twice the brine of oysters and sport a gentle chew. Fried clam bellies ($15) provide the same flavors with a plump mouth feel. These are clams pretending to be oysters.
Maryland blue crabs are always a good idea ($24 for six). Cracking is a lot of work, but the payoff is that your hands, face and arms get covered in musky crab guts and spicy Old Bay.
Fried pollock ($15) is satisfyingly crispy; too bad the fish is oversalted to near-lox strength.
Whole lobster, part of a $46 surf and turf, tastes of iodine and liver. Now that would be fine if this were one of those rare dry-aged lobsters. But since it isn’t, I advise my companion to stop eating.
The included turf was an inedible gristle-packed strip steak.
Clam chowder (New England, not Manhattan -- heresy, unless you’re a Pats fan) is mostly cornstarch and cream.
One final indignity: During our last meal upstairs, we realized the bartender didn’t charge us for a margarita and an order of sweet, cucumbery, Virginia fried oysters ($14).
So we had our waitress add those items onto our dinner bill. Upon leaving, the bartender confronted us, challenged our story, and sent a fellow staffer upstairs to verify that we had paid. The dispute was resolved when I produced the receipt.
Brooklyn Crab, for you a Bronx cheer.
Rating: 1/2 *
The Bloomberg Questions
Price: Many dishes under (and over) $30.
Sound Level: Near but not quite noisy, about 70 decibels.
Date Place: Not when you’re accused of dining and ditching.
Special Feature: Excellent blue crab boils.
Inside Tip: Great riesling by the glass for $8.
Back on My Own Dime: No.
Brooklyn Crab is at 24 Reed St., Red Hook. Information: +1-718-643-2722; http://brooklyncrab.com.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience. *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor
Sound-Level (in decibels): 51 to 55: Quiet enough to converse. 56 to 60: Speak up. 61 to 65: Lean in if you want to hear your date. 66 to 70: You’re reading one another’s lips. 71 to 75: You’re yelling. 76 to 85: Ear-splitting din.
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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