Restaurant Review: Cray Kitchen & Bar, Mount Pleasant

What I consider one of my culinary Everests was achieved in the utmost appreciation last week. A friend took me out of my birthday dinner, and left it up to me to choose where to go.  At the time, I had just finished watching a Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives (on the Food Network – if you haven’t seen it, buck up and watch it – it’s the best) where Crawfish was showcased.  Now, there are only a few culinary items that I haven’t tried in my life, and Crawfish is one of them.  I mean it isn’t a weekend getaway to fly down to Louisiana from where I am in the world.  That being said, I had a thought – perhaps someone in Vancouver has figured out how to import Crawfish?? So I committed a millennium normalcy and Google’d.

To my shock, amazement, and surprise I succeeded to find Cray Kitchen + Bar.  Opened recently, this popular restaurant caters to foodies looking to get their hands dirty while grooving to top 40 hits and drinking pitchers of beer.  The ambiance did not put me on the Bayou, but I’m not sure that was what it was supposed to do.  The Crawfish is flown in fresh – and the deals they offer are on par.  Much of their seafood is labelled “MP” (market price – which varies from day-to-day) and is subject to availability as they truly keep a high level of quality for what they serve.  
In addition to their extensive menu, they also offer combos, which is where we ordered from.  We opted for a combination of crawfish, shrimp, mussels, clams, Andouille sausage, corn and potatoes for $25 each (minimum 2 orders with the same seasoning).  In truth, the perfect amount of food for my dining guest and I – almost too much.  The meal comes out in a shallow dish overflowing with the intensely flavoured ingredients (best seasoning = cray mix – original, garlic butter and lemon pepper combined).  We ordered a “medium” spice as the person I was dining with is a bit of a p_____ when it comes to how hot he can go – but I would say “spicy” is doable.
Here is my breakdown of the ingredients; 
Crawfish = could have been a bit meatier.  The flavour was perfect though.  Sweet meat, and a great mixture of spice to compliment.
Prawns = huge, flavourful, juicy – some of THE BEST prawns I have had in a LONG time. 
Mussels = New Zealand green-lipped – not sure if this is normal for Cray or whether it is because BC waters are in the middle of Red-Tide – but they were great.  Green-lipped mussels are notoriously meatier.  Nice, plump and sweet with a hint of salt-water. 
Clams = Manila – somewhat disappointing, but again this could be because of the Red-Tide and they were shipped in from somewhere else in the world. They were uncharacteristically flat. The flavour of the meat was masked completely by the spicy broth they were floating in – which perked them up in my book. 
Potatoes & Corn = 100% traditional in a Crawfish boil – and wow, perfect. The potatoes soaked up that broth until literally you put it up to your mouth and completely soak yourself as the juices run down your face.  The corn, although I’m not the biggest fan in general, was tolerable for me.  Plump kernels, sweet, and bursting with flavour. 
The props you are brought should definitely be used, ie. the bibs, gloves, etc.  You will still be licking your fingers (or for that matter, running to the bathroom to wash your hands) when you’re finished, but there really isn’t anything wrong with that – it’s all a part of the experience.  Don’t forget to ask your server for a straw (for your beer).  You’re not going to be picking up that glass for the entire duration without it slipping through your fingers and smashing on the floor – so word to the wise, don’t do it, and opt for the straw.
In truth, I had one of the best meals I’ve had in a while at Cray.  I wouldn’t say it was based solely on the meal I ate, but more so the experience I had.  There is just something comforting about eating with your hands, getting messy and then joking around with friends about it.  I would go back to Cray in a heatbeat, and would suggest every one of you do the same. 
Happy Eating, Friends!!
*This experience was completely paid for out of my friends own (as it was my birthday) pocket. Cray Kitchen + Bar did not ask me to write this post/nor did they pay for any of my meal.
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