Late last month, I was invited to a casual tasting sesh at one of the hottest place to get seafood in town, Cajun Claws.
Thing is, it’s not just any old seafood. You’ve seen emulations of crab shacks in town already such as Holy Crab, Cut the Crab, and Mr. Crabby. But this is Princess Tiana with a whole lot of knife-edged claws. As the founders emphasized, “We’re not selling presentation here. We aim to give you a taste of Louisiana.” And they did.
Inspired by famed American chain The Boiling Crab, Cajun Claws replicated the Bayou State feel with a whole new twist. You still have a family dining ambiance, a spacious room for rowdy meals, and the juicy platters of seafood. But all that festivity was translated to the locals’ preference for sophistication – dark tiles, hardwood floors, furnitures, and an attired staff.
Founders Tommy Putra and chef Anthony Cheong took pride not only in the authenticity of its taste (and I cannot attest you whether or not this is true because I haven’t been to New Orleans), they also revealed that each of their dips, sauces, and marinades are homemade. Yes, that’s right – nothing here is pre-made. It’s all original material. In addition to that, every spice added into their sauces were imported from the States.
And just to stay true to the Southern Mississippi tradition, you’d also notice that Cajun Claws does not readily provide chili and tomato sauces on your tables as most would in the majority of American restaurants. This is because the dishes served are meant to taste as they are – no sloppy slew of extra flavors and toppings. You can always ask for them from the staff of course, but true flavor is the promise Cajun Claws leaves to the table.
Now what I’m thankful about being invited to these food gathering events is that you get to see a behind-the-scenes peek at how your food was prepped. This one is just grand.
Tommy and Anthony presented us with some of Cajun Claws’ seafood menu items while they’re raw. We dove to take pictures right away because these creatures get much smaller after they’re cooked.
Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve last come face to face with live crustaceans this big. That would be when I visited Seattle’s Pike Place back in 2008, and now the real claws of an Alaskan king crab is sitting before my eyes (and yes, this one’s shipped directly from Alaska). H-U-G-E claws.
This one’s a local lobster. I guess anything closer to the Equator brings a more exotic-colored creature? (It was also delicious)
Now here’s a lovely mud crab. It’s still a bit frosty from the freeze, and it’s staring at you.
The crimson buddy here is a Louisiana favorite – the crawfish. It’s one of the hardest claws of all to crack open, but it’s the fleshiest meat of all IMO. Totally worth the Mjölnir smashing, and I would feed Chris Hemsworth with the feast myself.
Let’s dive in to the cooked versions.
Fried shrimps with homemade Thousand Island dressing (IDR 48,000)
This was okay. You could tell the ingredients are kept to a minimum with the Thousand Island dressing to highlight the original, and it’s only mildly acidic. One thing that’s memorable is the fact that the shrimps were not as greasy as every other fried shrimps you’ve ever tried.
Which reminds me … should any of your older seafood-loving friend or family member is starting to worry about their cholesterol levels, then Cajun Claws is your pick. There’s little to no MSG, no preservatives and the whole shebang. It’s mostly just good old butter and LOTS(!!!) of olive oil, as you’ll see in a minute.
Cajun fries with homemade tartar sauce (IDR 25,000)
The only french fries I’ve truly enjoyed in my life was the one at Long John Silver’s, but this one was actually delicious. You know I’m a big fan of textures, and this one is lightly breaded and had peppers sprinkled all over them. They’re seasoned just right (not too salty) and tasted good with or without the tartar sauce, and you could tell that chef Anthony minimized the mayo here because it’s more of a watery consistency than it is viscous. More fat and capers won’t hurt ;p
Buffalo wings (IDR 32,000)
This is the only disappointing appetizer from the ones we’ve had so far. I was expecting bigger wings, more vinegar-like marinade and less of sweet-and-sour, but these are tiny, mild, and honeyed. The crisps are fine, the spice is mild (true to the Cajun cuisine) and you could always tell the staff to adjust the hot sauce according to your level of preference, but bottom line: I was expecting real Buffalo wings.
Jambalaya (IDR 58,000)
I’ve never tried jambalaya before, but it reminds me of paellas, only drier. What makes it look deep-fried when it’s actually not is all that saffron, which, as all you cooks know is expensive (but so fragrant..). Since soft, fluffy carbs are a win for me, I definitely love this one. Don’t expect crazy spicy or salty or just anything heavy even though it looks that – it’s pretty mild. I would add more celery to the stock though, just to zest it up and bring out the meatiness of the sausage more.
Seafood Gumbo (IDR 69,000)
Now this one is sharper and tangier. Again, I’ve never tried gumbos before, but they’re like a distant cousin of curry sauces – only thinner, much less pungent, and much less spicy. I think it’s okay, and as you’ve predicted, I prefer the jambalaya. Nonetheless I suggest you dig this right away while it’s hot, because you lose all the aromas from the stock once it gets cooler.
Shrimps (IDR 29,000 per 100g serving) with homemade Lemon Pepper sauce
This is the “cleanest” shrimp feast I’ve ever eaten in Indonesia so far. By clean, I mean you can actually tell there are no MSGs involved here. Yes, you always get a bit drowsy after leaving off from a seafood restaurant, but not this one. Moreover, the shrimps are so juicy they felt like pillows for your gums. But it’s a two-edged sword, really: Even though the sauce is homemade and healthy, it’s harder to take it up as a dip, because it’s very liquid. It also travels easily toward the edges of your table, so keep close to the center while you eat.
Crawfish (IDR 40,000 per 100g serving) with homemade Lemon Pepper sauce
You’ve seen the raw version. Now do you see how tough its shell still is even after cooked? No hammer-smashing required, because the staff would gladly help you if you have difficulties. Otherwise, I can eat a crawfish as thick as this one all day. Seriously.
Note: Just look at the clear olive oil drizzle.
Alaskan king crab legs (seasonal price) and mud crab (IDR 42,000 per 100g serving) with homemade The Works Sauce
This is supposed to be the highlight of the seafood menu. Although yum, I still think the star of the afternoon was the crawfish. That is, if you love something pudgier than your soft, fibrous crab meat. Doesn’t make these legs any less bulky though, because it’s so sweet you can just keep extracting those meats and enjoy them without using any sauce.
Speaking of which, The Works sauce is basically Lemon Pepper sauce (olive oil, garlic, lemon, and pepper) with a secret blend of cajun spices. Yes, I asked both Tommy and chef Anthony, and they said kept it a secret.
Local lobster (IDR 78,0000 per 100g serving) with homemade The Works sauce
This is the exotic lobster you saw while it’s raw.
… and it’s so supple when you bite it, like the arm fat that jiggles whenever we women move our hands. I love it, couldn’t stop munching on the meats as it’s so resilient. It’s perfect paired with The Works sauce, as something with a little more zing spruces up the chunkiness of this lobster.
American lobster (seasonal price) with homemade The Works sauce
I’m not sure why the local lobster was chunkier than the American one. Although this one’s leaner, it’s considerably bigger. It’s juicier than the local one, but if you’re into fleshy things like me, go for the local lobster.
So far, this is one of the freshest seafood restaurant I’ve been to in town. I’ve really enjoyed the crustacean feast that afternoon (thanks Tommy and Anthony!), as it’s really been a long time since I last had quality seafood, even more so with all the original ingredients they serve.
As we’ve covered, it doesn’t hurt to bring your family here out of other seafood restaurants because these claws are practically drenched in olive oil. Although I cannot attest whether this is true Louisiana food or not, I’d come back again to smash my way through those delicious crawfish. What about you? When are you planning to try it?
P.S. Sorry to break the news, Pheebs, but lobsters don’t actually mate for life :(
Pantai Indah Kapuk
(beside Leko and Little Ubud)
Jl. Marina Raya
Rukan Cordoba Blok G No. 1
Jakarta Utara 14470
+62 (0)21 5698 3533
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M – Th 05:00pm – 10:00pm
F – S 12:00pm – 03:00pm (Lunch)
F – S 05:00pm – 10:00pm (Dinner)