This was my second time attending an Alaskan King Crab Feast. I chose to visit Vancouver again in March so that I’d be in town for Alaskan King Crab season. My friends usually organize a King Crab feast at Excelsior Restaurant every year as their prices for King Crab are usually fairly reasonable and they do a fantastic job preparing crab multiple ways. I was lucky enough to have tried it at Excelsior two years ago while I was visiting in town. However, this year due to the shortage in supply, the prices for King Crab shot up before we made it to Excelsior. We had planned to go to Excelsior but by the second weekend in March the prices were already up to $19 per pound from the usual price of around $14 per pound during the early part of King Crab season. Hence, one of my dining companions suggested going to Lucky Tao instead since the price was still $13.95 per pound during the second weekend of March. She had previously tried Lucky Tao for King Crab and thought that the preparation was pretty decent.
We ended up with a 13.5 pound King Crab for the twelve of us. I missed the opportunity to take a picture of the live crab when it was presented to our table since I was sitting at the opposite end of the table. The price of $13.95 per pound included having the crab prepared two ways. We paid an additional $10 for the noodle dish and an additional $12 for the fried rice in the crab shell.
The first of the King Crab dishes consisted of having the legs steamed with minced garlic, diced scallions, and butter. They were delicious and almost as good as the ones that I remembered from Excelsior. The crab meat was succulent, tender, and sweet. I loved the garlic butter sauce that it was steamed in. There were actually two platters of the steamed legs done in the same preparation unlike at Excelsior where in the past we had it done two ways – one platter is usually steamed with julienned scallions in clear broth (清蒸) and the second platter with egg white and Hua Diao rice wine (花雕蛋白蒸蟹).
Next came the crab knuckles that were prepared “Typhoon Shelter” style (or sometimes known as Aberdeen style), which is a preparation style that originated from Hong Kong and is usually a popular way for preparing crab. The “Typhoon Shelter” style or Aberdeen style is basically the term used to describe a chef’s secret chili concoction made from a blend of spices such as garlic, scallion, red chili and black bean. At Lucky Tao, the default way to prepare the crab knuckle is usually Salt & Pepper & Chili, but this time we specifically asked for it to be done “Typhoon Shelter” style. These deep-fried crab knuckles were really tasty and flavourful. I loved the spicy mixture containing fried garlic slices, diced scallion, red chili, and shallots. Comparatively, though I think the “Typhoon Shelter” style at Excelsior is tastier, it would not necessarily have been worth the extra $70 (13.5 pound crab times $5 per pound difference) for the crab had we gone there instead for this meal.
For the third course, we asked for the leftover buttery garlic juices from our first course (the steamed King Crab legs) to be tossed with egg noodles with chives and sprouts ($10). This dish was perfectly executed. The noodles were of a perfect consistency and the dish was delicate yet flavourful. All of my dining companions loved this noodle dish.
For our fourth and final crab course, they prepared a fried rice with the remaining crab meat from the shell along with tobiko (fish roe) and sliced gailan stems, which gave the dish the crunch and the color and presented the fried rice in the King Crab shell ($12). This actually turned out to be our least favourite preparation out of the four mainly because the fried rice lacked flavour and was really bland. We wished that we had saved the remaining chili mixture from the fried knuckles (our second course) to toss in this fried rice. Personally, I preferred the preparation from Excelsior where they prepare a baked fried rice with a Portuguese curry cream sauce in the shell as it was a lot more flavourful.
We also ordered other “filler” dishes for our feast. The first was the Roasted Squab ($13.95 each). We ordered four squabs to share amongst the twelve of us. I was actually quite impressed with the squab preparation as normally I’m not a huge fan. In this case, the meat was tender and flavourful.
Next was the Honey Garlic Spareribs ($14.50). I was actually impressed with the execution. The ribs were tender yet crispy on the outside under the sweet glaze. The flavour was spot on.
We also had the Osmanthus Mussel Stir-Fried in XO Sauce ($28.95). The Osmanthus Mussel, known as 桂花蚌 in Chinese, is actually not a type of mussel. In fact, it’s not even a type of bivalve. It is actually the fancy name for Sea Cucumber Muscle, which is actually the wall lining inside the body of the sea cucumber. Unlike the meat of the sea cucumber which is often spongy and gelatinous in texture, the muscle of the sea cucumber is actually soft and crunchy when prepared properly. If overcooked, the sea cucumber muscle can taste rubbery. On this visit, the muscle was perfectly prepared as the texture was soft yet crunchy. The texture of the muscle actually reminded me of stir-fried geoduck. It was nicely contrasted with the crunchiness of the cucumber wedges. This was actually one of my favourite dishes of this meal in addition to King Crab courses.
We also ordered a couple of vegetable dishes. The first was Stir Fried Gailan with Sliced Pork ($16.50). While not that exciting, this dish was actually executed well and the flavours spot on. The gailan (Chinese broccoli) was tender yet toothsome. I did, however, find the odd chewy piece of sliced pork.
Our second vegetable dish was Baby Bok Choy with Dried Shrimp and Dried Scallop ($17.95). Again, the baby bok choy was tender and I enjoyed the topping of dried shrimp and dried scallop.
Our final vegetable dish was Pea Tips with Two Kinds of Egg ($17.95). The two kinds of egg included century egg and salted duck egg. The pea tips were tender although I thought the sauce was a bit on the soupy side.
We finished off with an order of Fujian Fried Rice ($14.50). The fried rice was generously topped with squid, scallop, shrimp, sliced chicken, diced Shiitake mushroom, diced crab sticks, and sliced gailan stems to give it the crunchiness. Compared to the fried rice in the crab shell, this Fujian Fried Rice was much tastier and more flavourful.
Overall, I was quite impressed with our meal at Lucky Tao. Most of the dishes were solidly executed. The standouts were definitely the King Crab dishes although our “filler” dishes were quite tasty as well. The only dish I was really disappointed in was the fried rice in the crab shell. Otherwise, everything else was delicious. Our dinner worked out to $41 a head including tax and tip, which I thought was really reasonable for a King Crab feast. I’m looking forward to visiting Vancouver again during King Crab season in future years so that I can partake in feasts like this one.
Lucky Tao Chinese Seafood Restaurant
8077 Alexandra Rd