You know when you have friends visiting from out of town and they want an SF seafood experience? This is not about some soup in a sourdough bowl--it's prime time to hook them up with a crab fest! And seriously now, where are you going to find dinner for four for $106.95? ~PPQ DUNGENESS ISLAND~, baby! (Actually, when my friends from LA recently came to town, we chose our own courses and didn't do the special set dinner, but if I was in a big group, I'd totally consider it.) There's also dinner for two for $49.95, which gets you imperial rolls, chicken salad, roasted crab, garlic noodles, and fried banana with ice cream. Pretty damned irresistible.
The place is packed with groups of people, PACKED, sporting ever-stylish yet oh-so-practical bibs (which charmingly say "Let's get cracking"--I guess an "I feel crabby" option wouldn't be very festive after all) and everyone is gettin' all garlicky together. Yes, your breath will reek of alllium when you get out of here, so don't come here on date number one (or two or three), or if you plan on going dancing later, and drinking anything carbonated that night, like a Jack and Coke.
There is nothing quite like a room full of people attacking some crab. It's a sight. And no, not a pretty one. It's almost like a variation of the Roman Coliseum. You will witness all kinds of crab carnage and interesting crab dissection techniques--my personal favorite was this dainty-looking chick who was practically gnawing the crabmeat off its legs. Go sister--get that crab.
You will end up with bits in your hair, and some crab shrapnel will most likely fly into your beer glass, your lap, and your neighbor's lap. Your grubby little greasy hands will destroy your wine glass, your napkins, and anything else in your vicinity, so please, hold all calls.
The menu is full of options, like pho (at lunch), and some dishes like five spice chicken, peppercorn prawns, or some bun/vermicelli dishes. I have no idea how any of these dishes taste--we were on a crab mission. But we did start with six crispy imperial rolls (cha gio) ($5.75)--what is there to not always and totally and completely and utterly love about this dish? Wrap 'em up in lettuce, dunk dunk into the nuoc cham, munch munch. We also tried the asparagus and crab soup ($12.95)--a bit too mild for our taste, next time, the fish mau! Oh, and I am sure the peppercorn chicken wings ($11.95) rock--call it a feeling.
We ordered up two crabs for the three of us, which was a total bounty. We still had quite a bit of leftover legs when all was said and done and destroyed, but they made an excellent salad the next day after I spent 20 minutes picking them apart. So much work, but so worth it.
The crabs run at a seasonal market price, but usually cost about $35 a pop. Yes, you could be doing all this at home, but then again you'd have a big fried crab mess to deal with, so skipping the oily clean up alone is worth the $35. Besides, these folks know what's up, and cook them perfectly.
You can choose from the peppercorn crab (coated in garlic and a black pepper batter--a well known crowd pleaser here), the roasted crab (AKA garlic and butter fest), drunken crab (in wine broth, hic), curry crab, and our personal fave, the spicy crab (coated with jalapeno, basil, garlic, scallions, black pepper). The crabs were fresh and hot and meaty and juicy, and come conveniently hacked up in easy-to-handle pieces, which also means they get fried in as much coating as possible. Just wait until you get the crunchy little fried garlicky bits all mixed up with your garlic egg noodles ($6.50) and then you dump on some crab sauce--it's a ten on the taste-a-rama and texture scale. Yes, you will totally stuff yourself.
Our server was great--notably helpful, and nice and attentive. Thanks dude. And the place was clean. Considering the crab vivisection that goes on in there, it's impressive. As for décor, it's not a hole in the wall, but it's not quite what I'd call classy either. Functional is about right.
A few tips to make this painless as possible:
- Parking is the pits, so take the bus, or a cab. There is also a lot where the first hour is validated, and after that it's something like $3 an hour. So worth it.
- Make a reservation--this place gets packed like, uh, insert fish analogy here.
- If you're ordering the set dinner, I think you can substitute the kind of crab you want--just ask nicely. It comes with the roasted crab, but I think the salty peppercorn version is a great place to start.
- Do NOT wear clothes that are dry clean only.
- Don't come here if you're on a diet--you'll hit your butter and oil quotient for the month in one sitting.
- And no kissing people outside your crab feast circle for 24 hours.
PPQ Dungeness Island
2332 Clement St.
Cross: 24th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94121
Crabs @ $35