If there’s one thing that can make Asian immigrants feel at home in the Gulf Coast States, it would be the crawfish. Aptly named “mini-lobster” in Chinese, crawfish somehow made it to both American and Asian dinner tables in the same way: we boil them briskly in heavily spiced stock, yell from the kitchen “everyone, clear the table!” And dump the cooked crustacean over the butcher paper-lined table top. As the night grows old, the piles of seafood shells stacks up high and the week’s stress and fatigue are washed away by good beers and good times.
Being only 10 hours away from Louisiana, Dallas has quite a lot of Cajun-style restaurants serving seafood boils. What makes Bear Bay unique is that in addition to crawfish it carries a large varieties of seafood on the menu. My wife and I are both devoted fans of shellfish, which are not very easy to come by in Texas. You can imagine our excitement when we saw the menu! Finally, after all these years of searching, we found a shellfish feast!
- Price Range: $15 – $25 per person
- Parking: On-premises, Free
- Official Website
Bear Bay Seafood Kitchen is right off Parker and Alma in Plano, with a big sign proudly announcing “Live Crawfish”. According to a review, the owner first sold his signature dish in a gas station, and now he has built a restaurant with two dozen tables and live band – quite an inspiring story if you ask me. The interior decor was playful and adventurous. Who would have thought of placing a pair of bronze armor statues at the entrance of a seafood restaurant? Not to mention the random miniature bear trophies and the “RAWR!” signs, reminding us that they took the name of their business seriously!
Before diving into our munching experience, though, I should mention that the restaurant’s online website is very outdated. The prices listed there are a few dollars cheaper than the actual prices, which can be found more up-to-date on their Facebook page.
For our “shellfish feast”, we ordered New Zealand mussels, fresh clams and razor clams – one lb each plus the standard assortment of potatoes, corn and sausages. In addition, we got the grilled oysters for extra tasting.
The grilled oysters were pretty minimalist, with only some garlic as seasoning and essentially boiled in its own juices. Personally I would also add a dash of cocktail sauce and a small piece of butter to each shell, but I respect the original approach for preserving the natural flavors.
Now comes the main course – a hefty bowl with everything mixed up and soaked in a Cajun sauce. There are three choices for the sauce. The waitress explained that the “Traditional Boil” was simply boiling in plain water and then some seasonings are sprinkled at the end. Then there’s “Cajun” and “Spicy-13”, which is a mixture of 13 different spices, giving it a tangy Asian twist. We chose “Cajun” just to try their interpretation of Louisiana cuisine. The restaurant also offers 11 levels of heat (0 – 10). We asked for 0 since we wanted to share some with the kids.
The Cajun sauce was actually very mild, not in terms of heat, but rather saltiness and spiciness. It’s a stark contrast to most other Cajun boils I have had in Dallas. I could taste the standard Cajun spices like celery seeds, thyme and chili. Also, the sauce was heavily loaded with garlic, which is an interesting twist from the traditional Cajun style.
The New Zealand mussels were clearly made from frozen ones, which is expected due to the long import process, but they still tasted fresh and tender. We put in an extra few bucks ($13.99 as opposed to $9.99 for frozen clams) for the fresh clams instead of frozen ones, because I was worried that the frozen ones were pre-cooked and would turn out rubbery. The fresh clams had meaty and juicy flesh, and all except two pieces were wide open. My favorite way to enjoy them was to dip the shells deep in the sauce scoop up some garlic pieces, because without a big sip of juices it would taste a little bland.
The razor clams on the other hand, were not very enjoyable. First of all, they were the short and round Pacific razor clams instead of the long ones that look like razors. Then ,every shell was full of sand for some reason. The flesh was also rubbery and dry. It just felt like chewing on a rubber pocket of sand. I do not recommend the razor clams to anyone.
Overall, Bear Bay Seafood Kitchen is a good match for folks who enjoy a milder seafood boil. At least with the Cajun sauce, the flavor doesn’t “explode” but also won’t overload you with sodium. The restaurant is usually very busy in the weekends, so services may be slightly behind, but we didn’t have to wait long for the food to arrive. The price range is acceptable, but be prepared to order a lot to be satisfied.