The "Jersey Shore" is renowned for its wide sand beaches and its honky-tonk boardwalks � a particularly American melding of natural beauty and crowd-pleasing kitsch. This dual personality also extends to the region�s restaurants. While there are more than a few fine-dining establishments, for many of us, a trip "down the shore" is not complete without a casual feast at one of the area's venerable seafood houses.
It was this atmosphere I was searching for when I visited The Crab House. Behind one of Edgewater�s fast-multiplying shopping centers, the restaurant sits at the end of a concrete pier that extends into the Hudson. A large outdoor seating area offers lovely views of the city across the river, and if the breeze is from the right direction, it carries a whiff of seashore salt.
Indoors, a friendly group of hostesses offer a genuinely warm welcome. The window-ringed dining room is comfortingly barn-like, with rustic wood beams and huge folk-art fish hanging from the ceiling. Tables are covered with butcher paper. Even with all the hard surfaces, however, the room�s polygonal shape � all corners are wider than right angles � keeps noise to a minimum.
Service at The Crab House is surprisingly gracious and professional � thankfully, no one called us "guys." The food, too, mostly surpassed my expectations.
Our first pleasant surprise was a chilled seafood sampler featuring jumbo shrimp, oysters on the half shell and a lettuce cup filled with luscious, lump crab remoulade (a mayonnaise-based dressing with mustard and herbs). The shrimp, like all the simply prepared seafood we tasted, was perfectly cooked and the oysters � blue points � were plump and fresh. Another starter, which successfully climbed to the next rung on the culinary ladder, was the beautiful crab, avocado and mango stack. It included layers of ripe mango and avocado topped with more of that wonderful crab remoulade, enhanced with squiggles of spicy sauce on the plate. A more traditional offering of crab-stuffed mushrooms was nicely done, as was an equally rich crab dip.
Most of the crab entr�es we sampled were also home runs. A pile of Dungeness crab legs and a combo platter of snow and Dungeness crab called "Pacific Pair" were moist and tender, fun to eat and delicately flavorful. But the "award-winning" crab cakes were quite disappointing, cold in the center, mushy and nearly tasteless.
The Crab House also offers several varieties of fresh fish prepared grilled, broiled or "bronzed," explained to us as similar to blackening, but lighter. These can then be enhanced with �signature toppings.� We enjoyed a substantial filet of grilled halibut Milano, which featured shrimp, mushrooms and spinach in a lemony cream sauce.
But for the real "shore dinner" experience, the generous platters are the way to go. The broiled combination of salmon filet, scallops, shrimp and a lobster tail was up to par, with the exception of the non-Maine lobster tail, which was tough � as they almost always are. The Market Street platter, marked on the menu as a Crab House favorite, brought me closest to the shore. Light and crispy beer-battered fish and seafood, plus a couple of piping-hot, cornmeal-crusted oysters, accompanied by the requisite shoestring fries and coleslaw, had me hearing foghorns and keening gulls.
Just the sort of transporting experience I had hoped for.