Sherman's Food Adventures: Crawfish King

Crawfish King

*Restaurant is now closed*

I don't know where to begin... If you've been reading this blog for a while, you will see that I rarely rip into a restaurant (Kawawa and Po King are the exceptions). I try my best to be fair and forgiving. However, as I write this post, I am literally still baffled at the ineptitude of the staff and management at Crawfish King in Richmond. Let me set up the scenario. We had just finished our Monday night softball game and headed to Crawfish King for some eats. They were pretty busy for a Monday, so we had to sit at 2 separate tables of 4. Our table of myself, Hot Chocolate, Boss Woman and Milhouse put in our order at 8:23pm. At around 8:30pm, the table beside us left. Hence Bear, Judes, Chill and Bubbly were able to pull the table over to join us. They had not ordered yet and put in theirs around 8:40pm. At 9:00pm, they got their food to our amazement. They were comfortably eating as we wondered what happened to our order. We asked a staff member to follow up our order shortly after that and then again 10 minutes later. Again at 9:20 and again at 9:30. Each time it was acknowledged but nothing happened. You would think that someone would've wondered why we hadn't gotten our food in nearly 1.5 hours! Finally, I lost it and let the manager know at 9:45 that we had been waiting for almost an hour and half for our food. He checked and apparently no one had put in our order. The server who took our order asked us if we were "sure" that he took it. Uh. WTF? The restaurant is not freakin' big. Does he have short-term memory loss? Not only that, all of us witnessed him taking our order. Was he implying we were lying??? He didn't look convinced. Oh and not a single "sorry" during this time. Okay, some might think that the addition of another 4 people at our table messed them up. Well, I'm not sure how that could happen when we put in our order FIRST, a full 17 minutes before the others did. Furthermore, we had not moved at all from our table. It was there all along. With a computerized system, the order would have been attached to our table number. So that cannot be used as an excuse.

Also, when we did place the order, he didn't even know what fried okra was, let alone actually putting in our order. So just a bit before 10:00pm, the manager re-takes our order and informs us that they did not have any okra. Oh and apparently, they did not have any bubble tea either despite having a whole menu page dedicated to it. But honestly, bubble tea, prata roti and noodles at a Southern boil? So let me talk about some of the food at the other table first. Bubbly had the Fried Catfish and Fries which wasn't really her favourite. To be fair, catfish is a bit muddy and that was in no way a reflection of the restaurant. It was rather thin though and combined with the cornmeal batter, it was crunchy (maybe too crunchy). The fries were pretty generic being like the Cavendish variety found at Costco. Bear had some of the Roti Prata and it was super greasy. When did Whales Tails from the PNE set up shop in their kitchen? Spread some jam on these suckers and voila - fry bread. Chill had the whole Dungeness Crab and it was alright. He did like the abundance of garlic in his garlic butter sauce. Kinda greasy though. And pricey considering restaurants in the area would charge less per pound (not a direct comparison, but a legitimate concern).

As for our food, the manager convinced us to stay even though we wanted to leave (after all, we'd been there over 1.5 hours). He promised to make it worthwhile when it came to the bill. So we got our order nearly 2 hours after we arrived at the restaurant. It was 2lbs. each of the Crawfish and Shrimp. We added an order of sausage for $4.00. We got "The Big Easy" medium flavour which included all the sauce options. Okay, am I missing something here? This is a SOUTHERN BOIL right? Then why was the whole thing drowning in grease??? Yes, there should be grease, but not that much. The flavours were pretty strong, so that was not bad I suppose. Too bad the shrimp and crawfish were slightly overcooked. Furthermore, the order of sausage consisted of 4.5 slices (I say .5 because 2 of them were end pieces). When has 4 slices constituted a sausage? Imagine buying a hot dog with half of the sausage missing... And with 2 lbs. of crawfish, it comes with a bonus corn, make that half a corn... So if they cut it into 2 pieces, would that make it 2 corn? The order of Cajun Fries didn't look any different from the one that Bubbly got in her dish. Starch-covered fries... I have a bag in my freezer. Now for the most disgusting item of the meal - the Hot Wings. That "sauce" at the bottom of the basket was actually 75% pure oil. It was neither hot nor tasty. If I wanted a basket full of oil, I could easily steal some from the back of a KFC. The wings were woefully soggy and bland. How does one mess up hot wings??? At the end, the same server that messed up our order asked us how we would like to split the bill. We asked what was the manager going to do for us first. He went back and asked and came back with the same question. Again, we asked what was going on with the bill. He kept asking if we wanted it split or not. Fine, we chose split and when the bill arrived, we were given a whopping 15% off for our troubles. The manager didn't even come out to talk to us. Look. It's not about the money. I can afford the dinner (gosh, I've paid for most of my meals for almost 4 years!) and if I wanted a free meal, I could go get one. It is all about the principle of it all. They don't give a flying rat's ass about the customer.

So there you have it. Mediocre food, poor value and worst of all - crap service. Completely confused and totally unprofessional. We gave them a total of 7 chances (checking on our order and asking what they were going to do with the bill) to make amends for the over 2 hour ordeal. They did not. When has it become acceptable to outright lie to a customer saying you will check on an order when it doesn't exist? When has it ever been right to even suggest that a customer is wrong and even go as far as denying you took their order? How about: "Hey, that table doesn't have food and it's been 1.5 hours, maybe something is wrong!"? And how hard is it to say "sorry"??? Or how about a manager convincing you to stay and promising to make it up by only offering a measly 15% off for your troubles? And on top of that, avoid the customers completely when it came time to settle the bill? Oh and more importantly, the food was greasy and "meh". This place doesn't stand a chance.

The Good:
- You really think there was any good in this?

The Bad:
- Worst service I've ever seen (and I've been to a lot of restaurants)
- Food is mediocre-to-poor and it's not a good value
- Everything was covered in grease (including the non-boil items)
- Management does not train its staff properly nor do they care about their customers

Crawfish King on Urbanspoon

29 comments:

LotusRapper said...

If there's an award for a new restaurant that can crash & burn so soon after opening, then Crawfish King seems to be on its way to clinching 1st prize. I've not read a single positive local review of them to date.

Thanks for the insight.

Sherman Chan said...

@LR Richard Wolak tweeted that when this post goes up, they will soon go out of business. Honestly, I'm not sure if I have that kind of power. However, on their own merits (in a negative way), they will close on their own accord.

LotusRapper said...

On Urbanspoon, one of TCK staff replies was:
"Many people come in for our crawfish since it is a unique experience, agreed there is not a lot of meat but that is just how they come when we fly them in fresh from the USA. Our crawfish are never kept in tanks or frozen."

OK, riddle me this. *Unless* the crawfish are flown in EVERY single day, how the heck can they be kept fresh yet not be frozen nor kept in tanks ?

Sherman Chan said...

@LR I thought of that too as I ate the crawfish. However, I wasn't going to speculate that on my post because I don't have any proof. I only stated what happened. And my god, I still can't believe it...

krispymilk said...

Thanks for the review. As a food blogger, I am always tempted to try out a new place. But based on so many negative reviews, I think I will pass this time. I actually went there last week for lunch (not knowing they only open for dinner). But I'm kind of glad now that I didn't get to try it.

Mike H said...

Love it! Best piece of written material I've read for a while.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us! And thanks for the warning to steer the hell away from this joint!

Sherman said...

@krispymilk Honestly, I hate ripping a restaurant, but they went too far. I never felt worse as a customer in my freakin' life. They won't go out of business on my accord, they will do it on their own merit.

@Mike H Thanks, not sure it I meant to make it my best post in a while. LOL...

Leslee said...

How disappointing, I've always wanted to try crawfish! I must say that you showed remarkable restraint, I would have been raging if I had been treated that way.

Will you be trying the new Crab King in Steveston Landing anytime soon? They do southern boil pots as well, no crawfish though.

holly said...

They dared to p*** off the Mighty Sherman???
At this rate, they won't last long.

Will definitely NOT be checking out this place.

Sounds like an exercise on how to not to make money.

Kim Le said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crispy Lechon said...

Even with all their shortcomings, I applaud them for bringing the first Louisiana crawfish/seafood boil to the Lower Mainland. I think its also fair to mention that at the time of your visit, they are still on a soft opening stage having opened for about 2 weeks prior. I went there on their 2nd day of opening. It wasnt that busy at that time and service was decent. You were right about the oiliness in their boil. I guess they use a lot of butter in their spice mix, but I did enjoy our order of dungeness crab and shrimps. Not so much with the crawfish since I find it too little meat to eat for all the effort.

On the side note, in their Facebook page, I quote their May 4th post.

"We are holding open interviews from 12pm-2pm tomorrow afternoon. Looking for servers, cooks, bartenders and managers. Please come with a resume!"

I guess they became aware of the service issues and was doing a wholesale staff replacement.

BTW, this Richmond branch is not a franchise. Its a wholly own branch of Crawfish King Seattle, operated by a Vietnamese family.

Ronald Lee "Eat Marketing" said...

Wow from the descriptions and photos with all that oil...I'm hesitant to go in.

Thanks for the post.

Sherman Chan said...

@Leslee I'll be sure to try Crab King. Thanks for the tip!

@Holly It's not even about pissing me off. There were others in my group. I just happen to have a blog.

@Kim Le Absolutely, everyone has different experiences. However, with the common thread in Yelp! and Urbanspoon, it makes you wonder what the norm is.

@CL Yes, valid point. However, the thing that made us upset was the response by the manager more than anything else. Mistakes happen. It is how you deal with it that makes it count. Furthermore, I tweeted them prior to this post. They had a chance to make things right. This post is merely a reflection of what happened and I have 7 other people in my party to echo the same thing. You know my style and my blog, I'm not out to hurt anyone, in fact I'd like to help. But when an experience like this happens, it is pretty unforgivable, especially with no follow up from the restaurant.

@Ronald It sure was greasy...

fatpandavancouver said...

Hahaha thats funny I don't think Ive ever read such an angry post from you. At least now we know you're honest ;) Well I really hope they do some real adjustments because you're not the only one thats complaining about it! That sucks because I was really looking forward to a first crawfish experience without travelling to the states. dammint

Unknown said...

I was in LA last year and my cousin took me out for some crawfish. I was hooked and wondered why there was no such cuisine in Vancouver. It is so disappointing that this place suck, cause I would have frequent it. Going back to LA again this summer just to have some crawfish. I think Vancouver need more southern dining establishment. Aside from Memphis bbq there is not much other selection. Can you believe we don't have a proper crab shack in the whole city.

LotusRapper said...

@Unknown,

There's the new The Crab King in Steveston. I've not gone yet, but thought you should know:

http://www.thecrabking.com/

As for other southern restos in Greater Vancouver, you are correct that there aren't enough. But the new options are increasing:

- Chewie's Steam & Oyster Bar
- Peckinpah
- Re-UP BBQ food cart
- The Fat Dragon (Southern + Chinese bbq fusion)
- Rumpus Room

mbsunshine said...

I just noticed that in the "Diner Review" section of their urbanspoon page, they replied to someone's bad experience. They pretty much say that the diner ordered the wrong item(maybe they did, but that's not the point). What they should have done was address the issue instead of making excuses...

Follow Me Foodie said...

@sherman - I'm glad I was there to listen to your pain after... and equally as glad that i wasn't there having dinner with you guys... you are more patient than me. I hope people know this post doesn't prove your honesty because you've always been honest. You're not proving anything with this post except for what you've already been doing. thanks.

shokutsu said...

Drove past the other day and was curious. Your experience tells me not to bother anymore, thanks for the heads up. :)

Unknown said...

First I would like to say thank you for this honest post. I believe that no matter who's running the restaurant, it's still a restaurant and it should not be judged on a lower standard just because it's a family restaurant. However, everything on this post seems to describe something that is directly attributed to what you were feeling (especially how you described the quality of food). I see a lot of anger, and from my experiences strong feelings sometimes shape how one views what is actually happening.
I have no doubt that something was screwed up, but I'm actually curious if it was actually wrong to this degree. It almost seem unbelievable that a restaurant can let this happen.

Sherman Chan said...

@FMF Thanks for your support, as always.

@shokutsu You can certainly try it for yourself regardless...

@unknown You are right. I was angry and I am still a bit peeved. No doubt about it. In terms of how much this is actually true, all of it. In fact, Milhouse stated I was too "easy" on them already. He was as mad or more mad than I was. He actually thinks the manager tricked us. I'm not sure about that since that can't be proven. The fact I had 7 other people with me who witness the whole thing bodes well for my end of the story.

Gordon Shieh said...

Reading the responses by assumably the owner on Urbanspoon shows how much they are lacking in customer communication skills. Clearly they are not prepared nor trained to handle customers.
As a restaurant owner, they WILL crash within a month if they stay like that. Although it may be too late. Now please, go treat yourself to something more appetizing, without getting 'the treatment' from the manager!

BTW: You have reviewed my family's restaurant before, it is INDEED an honest opinion.

Sherman Chan said...

@Gordon Thank you for your comment. I have heard from other people and they are amazed that is how they run things at Crawfish King. Oh, I hope I wasn't too harsh with your restaurant... LOL...

Milhouse said...

Hello this is Milhouse. If you read Shrman’s blog, yes that Milhouse. Although I’ve been thinking Thrill-House might be better at getting the attention of a certain girl named Lisa S.... sigh. Anyway, in four plus years of eating with Sheman this is the first time I’ve felt the need to add my two cents to a matter because most of the time my two cents ain’t worth a plum nickel.

But since this post has caused a minor disturbance in the force, I’ll say this, Sherman was very generous in his post. From my perspective, he had every right to go all dark side on Crawfish King’s proverbial behind, but he didn’t.

I’ll just echo a few things from my perspective and words.

Mistakes happen. No service will be perfect, but it’s how issues are addressed that matters. I understand the staff was inexperienced, so I don’t fault them for that. But we inquired about our order not once, not twice, but three times, and each time we were told by our server there were some issues -- Boy, understatement of the year there -- but the order is coming. If the server really checked on our order, how did it all of sudden disappear not only from their computer system, but from the kitchen that’s supposed to be making it? Did the magic crawfish monster swoop down from the heavens and whisk our meal away, leaving no trace in its wake? I shake my fist at you magic crawfish monster. Eat my shorts... which I came pretty close to doing because no food for an hour and a half and not even a sorry to boot.

Then, after we complained, the server had the gall to come back and ask if we were sure he was the one who took our order. Give me a break. My eyes were stalking your confused existence like you were Lisa S. on valentines day from the moment we ordered. I was watching because I just finished playing softball, and was waiting for you to go get my darn water, which didn’t come until forever and a day.

So our food order goes poof into the ether and as we’re about to leave, the manager comes and says if we stay, he’ll make it up to us. If anything like this ever happens to me again I will not accept vague statements like this to be worth anything. I will demand concrete answer as to how things will be made right because what the manager did didn’t even come close.

Soft opening or not, I did not once feel like this simple but significant issue was being taken seriously by the restauraunt. After our meal, the manager didn’t come over to check if everything was to our satisfaction or tell us how he was going to make things right, which to me showed he really didn’t care. It felt like he was throwing us a bone and saying like it or not, this is all you get for the restauraunt messing up your order and wasting two hours of your time.

I didn’t expect groveling. I just wanted some professionalism, and a simple apology, which I didn’t get.

In many ways I feel like I was tricked with empty promises into patronizing an establishment I already didn't want to patronize. Because quite frankly, after waiting almost two hours for no food, I was ready to hit the McDonald's down the street for a filet-o-fish and forget about Crawfish King. In hindsight, I would have really liked to have given McDonald’s my business instead because at least they have a clue on how to treat a customer.

With that said, I’ll leave everyone with some words of wisdom learned the hard way.

“It’s better to walk in on both your parents than on just one of them.”

Unknown said...

When I saw the menu of a southern boil had bubble tea and other Asian items, I already thought this place was going to be terrible. This is the kind of place that sees that sort of restaurant in a magazine, thinks "Hey, that's a great idea!" without actually knowing anything about that kind of food.

The service, the way they handled the bill, the way they skimp on the ingredients and generally the inclusion of bubble tea just tells me they saw an opening in the market, saw how successful places like this are in the States and thought it would make them some money. No thought went into the food...it was all spent on shaving those extra cents off the dollar.

Sandra N. said...

I've driven by the place and was curious... but not anymore. The review of the terrible service is one thing but I have to say, of all the years of reading your blog, I've never seen food look so unappetizing (and I've been known to eat some questionable things).

I probably would have left after waiting so long for my food but I definitely would have left after seeing their food. Why does everything seem to be coated in orange oil? Why is there a pool of that same orange oil sitting at the bottom of the chicken wings. That looks disgusting.

I think the review was far kinder than what I would have written. I applaud your restraint.

Sherman Chan said...

@Sandra You are right. Despite my negative comments, I did take it easy on them. The others in my party thought so...

Sherman Chan said...

FYI to anyone who cares, Crawfish King via a public relations company contacted me a few weeks ago asking me to give them another try. I respectfully declined. It's not because I'm still upset or anything. It's because there is no point in returning. If I did, of course the service would be excellent. So there would be no value to that blog post. If I have the urge to, I might return on my own accord to see for myself later.

Bukko Canukko said...

It's always more fun to read a slash-n-burn review than a nice one. Or maybe that's just vindictive old me...