Dig into shellfish at Ventura Crab N Spice
By: RITA MORAN | September 25, 2015 | vcstar.com
If you love finger-lickin’ food, then Ventura Crab N Spice may be the place for you.
Ordering the most popular items on the short menu, bags of shellfish boiled in seasoned sauce and brought to the table in plastic sacks, leaves you with lots of work to do on the paper-covered table. But the genial staff is there to help. They’ll bring implements for cracking shells and picking out the bits of seafood, and light plastic bibs to keep the juices from ending up on you instead of in you. They provide napkins in a holder, but looking around I spotted several tables with rolls of paper towels on them and commandeered one of them for us, expecting we’d end up more in need of lots of sopping up than basic napkins could handle. We also requested several sturdy paper plates on which to work on the shells, and then to share the bounty.
TWO FOR DINNER
Starters or sides: Hush puppies ($5) + fried string beans ($5) + garlic noodles ($4)
Entrées: CNS Combo (three pounds of seafood with accompaniments, $40) + King Crab ($25)
Tab for two: $25-$50
All those efforts, of course, didn’t allow us to emerge without a tableful of debris around us. But not to worry, every other occupied table had as much or more debris than we had.
Before the bags arrived we ordered starters, fried string beans and hush puppies (each $5), and garlic noodles ($4). The fried items came in portions large enough to feed two tables of fish fanatics. The string beans were pleasingly crisp with their deep-fried coating adding lightly spiced flavoring. The hush puppies reminded us of some we had at another local restaurant a short while back, only those were overcooked and these were slightly undercooked. But the flavor inside the breading seemed a bit more distinctive. The noodles were easy to slurp down with their very compatible ingredients shining brightly.
Crab N Spice, owned by brothers-in-law Jerrico Reyes and Marlon Arsenal and inspired by their visits to similar eateries in Alhambra and Northridge, has its menu posted on a wall with daily market prices per pound for the various seafood. When we visited the prices per pound were shrimp, $12.50; mussels $11; clams $12.50, crawfish $12.50; Dungeness crab $31; lobster tails $27 for three tails; snow crab $14.50; king crab are $25.50. Prices vary according to availability.
For quick immersion into the process there’s the $40 deal which includes three pounds of shellfish plus a small piece of corn on the cob, sliced pork sausage and quail eggs. We chose clams, crawfish and shrimp for that combo, in separate bags with different sauces, the restaurant’s lemon garlic and coconut sauces among them. Then, as the multifaceted big deal did not include crab, we ordered a pound of that as well (King Crab at $25.50).
VENTURA CRAB N SPICE
Location: 4732 Telephone Road, Suite 5B, Ventura. 994-0421. www.venturacrabnspice.com.
Hours: 3 to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Impressions: Small, creatively decorated spot; very helpful service; focus on shellfish and spices, eaten “by hand,” but also offering a few dishes that are easier to tackle.
What’s hot: Garlic noodles, mussels, King Crab, crawfish, shrimp, fried string beans.
We were munching on our starters when the bags of shellfish started to arrive. From my point of view, the mussels were the most successful offering because the sauce easily seeped into the open shells, adding flavor to the good-sized, tender mussels. The shrimp were large and also managed to sop up some sauce as they sat in the bag. One friend enjoyed the crawfish, delicate as they were, because she was willing to dig into the protective shells and find the goodies inside. We had trouble cracking the shells of the crab because they gave way to the cracking tool rather than cracked, requiring us to to the cracking by hand, sometimes with difficulty. But the crab was plentiful once we set it free.
There are baskets of food in addition to the green beans and hush puppies we used as starters. Another main dish option is fish (cod) and fries, and other possibilities are fried calamari, onion rings, traditional fries, sweet potato fries and Cajun fries, chicken tenders and chicken wings. Steamed rice is available and fresh oysters are another way to go.
Most people around us for an early dinner also finished with their tables piled high with shells and wrappings. It’s possible to get a few utensils and some sturdy paper plates to assist in the dining process. Plastic gloves, for the fastidious, are 25 cents a pair.
Rita Moran visits restaurants unannounced and pays for her food. If you know of a new, unusual or just plain good restaurant please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.