The first person who ever ate a crab must have been super hungry. Honestly, look at it. It's definitely not the prettiest thing in the sea or on land, and it doesn't make you want to even attempt to dig in, but once you do, you realize you can't judge a book by its cover.
We were invited by a friend to the Kani House in the brand new mall on Paradise Walk in Binjiang. This is their third restaurant in Hangzhou. Paradise Walk mall is really big, and it took us a while to find the place. We arrived in the middle of the hall on the second floor by the elevator, then kept walking to one end, and finally saw a huge red crab that lies on the wall. That's where we had lunch.
‘Kani’ (かに) is the Japanese word for ‘crab’, so basically everything you eat here is crab. There are so many types, each with their own delicious flavor. Now crab is one of the most popular seasonal winter foods in Japan, especially in the northern regions such as Hokkaido where the waters are cooler and perfect for capturing this choice crustacean. There are three major types of crab in Japan, the red hairy crab, and the snow crab. Here in Kani House, these are the three crabs that they use. In order to ensure the freshness of the ingredients, all crabs are air freighted live from the deep-sea water of North Korea sea and the Bering Strait.
In the reception area, there was a small pond with a display of huge, live ones. We took off our shoes and were led by the waitress to our private room where we saw more huge fish tanks with live crabs in the dining area.
Before going into the details, we'll briefly introduce you to the three different type here that are on offer.
The Red Hairy Crab, (kegani in Japanese) or horsehair crab, is found in the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan.
The Snow Crab is slightly smaller than the red king crab, and they’re known for their long, skinny and delicious legs.
The King Crab has a shell that's about 25cm wide, and has a leg span of more than one meter. However, because the meat is quite light, you should have no problem polishing off every last morsel and still have room for dessert.
There are many, many crab dishes to choose from. You can select them individually, or you can choose one from one of their several set menus. There are 8 ways to cook crabs in Japan, and they are: Sashimi, nigiri, tempura, boiled or steamed, shabu shabu, grilled, teppo-jiru or kani-jiru (crab leg miso soup), kani-meshi (shredded crab over rice).
Our lunch was basically made from one big snow crab, and the price is based on the weight. The restaurant normally recommends customers to eat it in two ways: shabu shabu + another way from the 8 ways. We chose to grill it.
While we were waiting for the shabu shabu, we were served with the Potato Salad (土豆沙拉 18RMB) and Crab Leg Tempura (蟹腿天妇罗98RMB) to start with. Everything seems to taste better when it’s fried, and crab tempura is no exception. It tastes great with a splash of amadare (sweet sauce), soy sauce, or with a pinch of salt.
Then the shabu shabu arrived with an extra Crab Shell Steamed Egg which was off the menu. It was incredibly yummy. Seafood shabu shabu (a Japanese hot pot dish) served with crab meat is a very popular dish during the wintertime. The name ‘shabu shabu’ comes from the sound the meat makes when you dip and swish it through the soup broth, and the meat from the crab legs were so soft and tender, you could dip it in their home-made crab vinegar. It's not as sour as the normal vinegar, but a bit sweeter, so it doesn’t cover the taste of the crab meat.
The next dish was the Crab Meat Baked Potato (蟹肉芝士焗番薯 48RMB). We liked it a lot because it almost felt like a crab gratin, with layers of sweet potato, crab meat and cheese.
The other half crab was grilled with butter, and it’s included in the package, but if you want to order it as a single dish, it costs about 218RMB/half. I always like grilled seafood. It keeps the original flavor. When we used the silverware to dig out the crab meat, it was all shredded, which means the crab was fresh, not frozen. With a touch of butter, we couldn't imagine that it could be better.
And the last one was the highlight of our lunch. Kani-meshi is the absolute finisher to any crab course cuisine. The rice is cooked together with crab meat and mixed into raw egg, seaweed, and spring onion to distribute the flavor. The waitress kept stirring the rice soup until it was really thick and all the flavors were melted together. This Crab Congee (蟹肉粥) is also sold individually for 25RMB/person. This is a dish often found in boxed lunches and sold at train stations, called ekiben meals. This can be served as a simple side dish or dishes out alone for the real crab lover.
Everything was absolutely delicious, so whatever option you pick, as long as you like crab, you will enjoy it. In addition to the crab, their menu offers dishes like Beef Carpaccio (生吃牛肉 45RMB), Marbled Beef (霜降牛肉 98RMB/158RMB), Miso Grilled Cod Fish (鳕鱼味噌烤 88RMB), Grilled Mackerel (碳烤青花鱼 38RMB), Grilled Eel (碳烤鳗鱼88RMB), Red Wine Beef Tongue (红酒牛舌 58RMB) and a few selections for sushi rolls priced from 35RMB to 58RMB.
If this article made your mouth water, you can satiate that by checking out Kani House at the 2nd floor of Paradise Walk in Binjiang. Their other two locations are on the 7th floor at Raffles City and 358 North Zhongshan Road.
Smoking is not allowed. Parking is available at the mall underground, 10RMB/hour.