Back in 2007 I met this young cheeky kid, Justin Pan, while I was managing a cinema and running the projection room in Chatswood. He went to school, and was close friends, with one of my now best mates, Rixy Dix. I renamed him JPan and he was this cute little smart ass. Over the years since he finished school and moved on I occasionally kept in touch on the social media and would run into him in odd spots in the city, so it was with surprise and pride when I discovered that the guy who when I last saw was selling Adidas shoes was now opening a crab restaurant in Chatswood with his two sisters. I had to check this out – had this little guy actually grown into a foodie man? Today I visited the soft-opened O CRAB in Chatswood, and it was here I lost my shit over the best crab and chips I had ever eaten. O CRAB is now open and the deets are at the bottom, do you love crab? good food? craft beer? chowder? Then stop your idiot-grinning, drop your linen and make a booking now!!!
Am I biased about this restaurant? Of course, I have always had a soft spot for JPan (today he got renamed JCrab) but I explained before my review I would be honest and would not write anything at all if it was shit, I also said I would try and get as many food bloggers there as possible but he needed to be aware that if it was shit, said bloggers would not hold back, I now have no fear, I will sing their praise while stuffing myself with chilli snow crabs in a bag with sides of truffle parmesan chips and drinking craft ales. Today I found a food favourite. It should also be noted I independantly paid for this meal, the sneaky lunch beer came free :).
The Pan Triad, of Justin and his two sisters (Chrissie and Jo), have grown up in restaurants, with their parents running a restaurant in the same venue years ago and then leasing the space out to a restaurant for the last few years, this restaurant was closing and on a whim, at a family dinner one of the three joked “wouldn’t it be funny if we opened a restaurant there together?” and from then the magic started happening.
While their jobs all overlap they are symbiotic in their roles, JCrab also has a full time job in sales and operations so owns this part of the business, his youngest sister JoCrab (or Jo), who I had the pleasure of meeting today, is studying architecture so designed the interior, a work in progress, it has some beautiful lighting hanging from lots of roof nets, some open brick-like walls containing chalk boards, an entire chalk board wall with chalk art and the tables as they should be, plain and covered in paper so they can cop the splatter of giant crabs being smacked senseless with their special crab hammers. The place is a meshing of the Pan sibling’s love of travelling through creole-styled crab places in America and a modern bar that serves craft beer and cocktails, it has blues and jazz music you would imagine playing in New Orleans crab joints.
The eldest sister, CCrab, or Chrissie, works in marketing, guess what she does? Yep – gets the word out there – hopefully sharing this review in praise on all their social media 🙂
My only fear for this place is the venue location, I originally thought it was in the new part of Chatswood all around the station but nope, it is up Railway St nearly parallel but on the other side of the road opposite the Zenith Theatre, perfect place for pre-show meals peeps but also a place you want to walk to, you want to put on your plastic apron, and gloves and then bash the shit out of blue swimmers, snow crabs or, if you want to spend a premium, the mud crabs (market priced), and you can do this sipping cocktails, or craft beers, #winning!!
The venue is ambitious for this untested trio of siblings with well over a hundred seats, but what have they got to lose? They have travelled to some of the best crab places in the U.S. and hired a chef they pretty much showed how to cook the crabs to their requirements. You have to have the CRABS IN A BAG when you are there – this has to be the signature dish and it has as much, if not more meat/ protein than a large steak, and it tastes incredible!! You can have them in ULTIMATE ORIGINAL OLD BAY (classic American) or GARLIC BUTTER or STEAMED NATURAL (with a side of their in-house made ponzu dip) or what I felt obliged to eat, JUSTIN’S SPECIAL CHILLI (MILD) – being a friend of JCrab, could I order anything else? I was not disappointed, a chilli garlic coriander combo – I now have a new-found respect for the JCrab. Receiving the food in a bag and then opening it to pull out your incredible amount of goodies to devour is like opening Christmas presents on December 25th. You are hit with a smell of your chosen flavours and then you can pull them out and beat them into digestible submission. I have never even heard of CRABS IN A BAG and now I don’t want crab any other way.
Not into crab? Don’t fret, they have prawn bags as an alternative, they also have pork ribs, scotch fillet, chicken, barramundi, salads, burgers, and a chowder people have already started talking about, a dish on my list for the next visit. But if these mains, and the best chips I have ever had (come on!! – truffle oil and parmesan, my first words to Justin were “these chips are jizz”), aren’t enough then you really need to have the perfectly named, JASON’S ULTIMATE BROWNIE w/ vanilla ice cream and drenched in butterscotch – I shall pretend it is named after me, because, well, I am awesome 🙂
O CRAB has just opened and it is still finding its legs, but it has gotten one huge thing right, the food, it’s a bloody winner, the selection of craft beers is superb and the venue is large enough it can pump. For the Chatswood, the North Shore suit crowd, or the city workers on their way home, this can be an ultimate Friday eve venue to have drinks and feast in joy.
In a city that pretty much only has two major crab venues in Harry’s Singapore Chilli Crab (more novelty for the experience than greatness in food) and House of Crabs, a venue on my wishlist to visit but appears to embrace more a kitsch decor of Creole and Bali crab venues, O CRAB is not entering a flooded market for what it does, it is entering a market running, and running fast enough to give its competition a run for its money. GET INTO IT!!!
Well done to the Pan Clan – wish you all the best of luck – save me some chips and snow crab!!!
Stalk then on Facebook and Instagram: @ocrabsydney