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Diversity in Dungeness

A simple plate of cracked crab is a classic for good reason, but connoisseurs would be wise to seek out these only-in-the-Bay Area alternatives.

Izakaya Rintaro

Pinoy Heritage

Photo: Courtesy of Pinoy Heritage


China Village
This East Bay Sichuan institution is the creator of one of the all-time-great crab dishes: a plate of spicy, tongue-tingling ma po tofu served not with the usual ground pork, but, instead, a whole wok-fried Dungeness crab. It’s the ideal pairing for several heaping bowls of rice. 1335 Solano Ave. (at Ramona Avenue), Albany, 510.525.2285

Izakaya Rintaro
Chez Panisse-alum Sylvan Mishima Brackett is known for his hyperseasonal Japanese cooking, and this winter he’s putting local Dungeness in each order of his nabeyaki udon, a clay-pot noodle soup that features a flavorful broth; housemade noodles; half a crab, cut open with scissors for easy picking; and, for good measure, about a tablespoon of the innards, or what the Japanese call crab “miso.” 82 14th St. (near Folsom Street), 415.589.7022

Swan Oyster Depot
This Nob Hill institution is probably the most iconic spot in the city to get your classic cracked crab fix. But it’s also home to more visceral pleasures like crab backs, brimming with the crustacean’s custardy innards and served with bread for dipping, and seafood salads dressed with oil, vinegar and more of that rich crab fat. 1517 Polk St. (near California Street), 415.673.1101

Eight Tables
George Chen believes his lavish chateau-style restaurant might be the only place in the United States serving the classic Shanghainese dish of drunken crab—Dungeness crabmeat cured with aged rice wine and spices, and essentially served raw. 8 Kenneth Rexroth Place (near Vallejo Street), 415.788.8788

Mister Jiu’s
For as long as the local Dungeness supply is sufficiently abundant, Brandon Jew plans to serve a three-way whole-crab preparation: the shell stuffed with sticky rice and the body meat, the crab butter and claw meat incorporated into an egg custard, and the knuckle meat folded into a chrysanthemum salad. 28 Waverly Place (near Sacramento Street), 415.857.9688

Pinoy Heritage
At his wintertime patio pop-ups at Anina, Francis Ang serves the ideal antidote for the cold: crab arroz caldo, an elegant take on the traditional Filipino rice porridge made with crab dashi, green garlic and crispy garlic. 

Hang Ten Boiler
This down-home seafood spot in Alameda is one of the best places to indulge in whole crabs done up in the Asian-Cajun style: boiled in a bag with a load of butter, garlic and spices. Each order comes with a crab head filled with rice, ready for you to mix with the umami-rich crab fat. 2315 Santa Clara Ave. (near Oak Street), Alameda, 510.263.8688


Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco 

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