I was excited to receive my invite for this month's Bite Club for three reasons (1) I love seafood and (2) I heard wildly different comments from friends who had been to the Crabcake Factory and (3) I had yet to go myself.
I arrived and the bar was large and open with natural light, it's important to those stuck inside an office all day. I started my evening with an local brew, Intuition Ale Work's People's Pale ale and even commented to Jay Magee that beer is an excellent pairing with seafood especially crab.
The appetizers were passed as we mingled at the bar.
The Jumbo Lump Crabcake Napoleons with tropical fruit salsa were not just pretty the crab "dome" was moist and crabby not bready. Whatever they use to bind it is pretty genius because it doesn't overtake the crab. It was better than the homeade crab cakes I make for myself last weekend and I thought they were pretty good but no compared with this. The fruit salsa gave it a nice tang.
The Ahi tuna and jumbo lump crab meat timbale has all my favorite ingredients; seaweed salad, lump crab and ahi and I could make a meal of these alone. At this point I'm realizing the Crab Cake Factory is back to the glory I heard so much of. The seafood is really fresh, crab and ahi can taste can get fishy if not fresh enough or stored properly this was not the case at all of all the foods I sampled.
The buffet portion of the evening featured;
- Cream of crab bisque
- Louisiana seafood gumbo
- Tossed mixed greens served with homemade champagne vinaigrette
The champagne vinaigrette was delicious and really tasted great with the strawberries on the salad. I enjoyed all the fresh veggies and was happy it wasn't calorie-laden with croutons and cheese. If this is the house salad I'd be happy to get it instead of the iceburg lettuce-shredded carrot-substandard dressing that a lot of places like to call a house salad.
Check out the crab claw in that gumbo! While it would be too messy for me to eat crab like this the claw adds a lot of flavor. For fear of filling up I took a small bit of the gumbo broth and was impressed the roux was great flavorful not watery not oversalted and had a nice spicy kick.
For dinner we didn't have to choose we had a selection of main dishes on one plate;
Sea scallop with lemon beurre blanc, jerk Mahi mahi and Crab stuffed shrimp with mashed potatoes and asparagus. The mahi seemed to be overcooked but the rub was tasty. The scallop and crab stuffed shrimp were delicious and the sauce was light, lemony and divine. The mashed potatoes and aspargus also had the sauce drizzled on top.
I didn't really have room for dessert but I ordered the bread pudding and the caramel sauce it was served with forced me to finish the whole thing!
Knowing that Chef and his son Christopher are back to return the Crab Cake Factory to the glory people spoke so highly of makes me feel this is just the sort of place that can do really well in Jacksonville. Good location for beach dwellers, specials nightly, fresh seafood, great homemade sauces and a friendly atmosphere should help them bring business back through the door. If I lived closer it would be a nice place to grab a drink and some apps and I hear the brunch is a must to try. The grand reopening is coming soon so check the website for details.