Cajun seafood boil in a bag places were a mystery for me. I was excited to discover Storming Crab, Amherst’s newest restaurant, and the two others on the horizon.
This restaurant concept is a turbocharged Cajun crawfish boiling. These meals include crawfish or a combination thereof of crustaceans, shellfish, and are boiled in richly spiced water with potatoes, onions, corn on the cob and sometimes sausage. You can enjoy the results by yourself, or you can dip them in butter.
Boil-in-a bag places enhance the flavor experience. The seafood juice is collected by cooking crab, crawfish and lobsters in a bag. After that, the whole assembly should be soaked in garlic butter.
To protect themselves from the buttery carnage, the contents are placed on a tray and eaten by those who have been issued plastic gloves and bibs.
Storming Crab is located on Maple Road, in the former Joe’s Crab Shack. It has a pier-centric décor scheme with pilings and rope, as well as abundant fishnets. Patrons are encouraged to use markers and write on the walls using markers. This could be considered “fun” (or “trashy”) depending on your opinion about graffiti.
Seafood bread is the first thing that will appear on the table. Mixing mayonnaise, cheese, copious garlic, and parsley with imitation crab was spread on a split Italian bread and then broiled. I thought it was too rich and too much, but then I reached for another piece of mayonnaise, and I put the basket away.
Hush puppies (or cornmeal fritters) were light and fluffy inside, with crisp exteriors. Boudin balls ($7.99/8), small-sized, breaded nuggets made of rice-and liver sausage, were surprisingly light. Storming Crab chicken wings Cajun-style ($9.99/12), were breaded in a similar way to fried chicken and without any sauce, spice or dip.
You can order boiled seafood by the pound with potatoes or corn. The market prices are posted on a chalkboard in the dining room. My visit included the following: Crawfish, $11.99, blue crab, $12.99, Dungeness, $24.99, King crab, $35.99, 1-1/4-pound lobster at $24.99, whole shrimp, $14.99, and headless shrimp at $17.99
There are five options, which can be used to feed one or two people. Choose from one of six heat levels and a garlic butter flavor, such as Old Bay, Cajun or plain garlic. There is also a plain steamed option.
The number three combination was ordered with garlic butter, level two heat, and a lobster, as well as potatoes, corn, and sliced sausage (45.99). A number five combination, Old Bay butter, and level three heat, included king crabs, mussels and crawfish plus potatoes, corn, and sausage ($58.99).
It turns out that garlic butter, spicy and not, and steamed seafood make a great pairing. Level three spice – “hot”, was the right level for me. Level two was barely noticeable. The sensation of eating sweet king crab dipped in garlicky butter and fiery garlic is something I’d love to repeat until my stomach hurts.
Even better, it got me to eat crawfish. I avoid them due to their low work-to-reward. Corn, potatoes, and smoky sausage filled in the gaps. I would have happily ate more bread if there had been more.
It is a happy, wild feeling. It is similar to comparing whole lobster to Cajun boil-in a-bag meals. Boxing has its rules.
Lobster cracking may accidentally spray neighbors with crustacean juice. However, cayenne-infused garlic butter needs to be prepared for another level of hazmat. Butter-coated gloves that are easily torn make it easy to grip, and you may as well accept the fact that you will be getting garlic under your fingers. They were uncomfortable at first and I felt the need to scratch my nose. But I persevered. There are two sinks in the dining area, and one for hand washing.
The buttery crawfish etouffee ($11.99), was delicious. Although the gumbo ($6.99) was not as dark as my favorite, it reminded me of a delicious bowl of Manhattan Chowder. Clam chowder ($6.99), while not lacking in flavor, was served to us without asking why. It was still on the bill.
Storming Crab sells fried seafood. However, it appears to be pre-baked frozen product. This is a disappointment in a town that has so much great calamari. The fried squids, shrimp, and fish were disappointing. However, the coated fries came with them were good.
Oysters are also available raw or barbecued at the restaurant. The server couldn’t tell us where the oysters were from. The raw oysters ($10.99/6) arrived with a muddy aftertaste.
Storming Crab is a great place to find steamed seafood with garlic butter in an informal setting. The emphasis is on informal. It’s an unforgettable dining experience, with the graffiti and garlic butter cologne that you’ll take home.