Up until last week, if you asked me where to find a seafood restaurant where you can hang out and enjoy quality food and quiet privacy in Timog area, I’d scratch my head. Now I can tell you: it’s at El Cangrejo – Crab, Seafood and Steak Bistro at South Triangle, Quezon City.
El Cangrejo is one of the dining options located at Jardin de Zenaida, a cozy alternative to the monster malls and spread out venues in its vicinity. This restaurant may be placed in the “hinterlands of Timog” where not a lot of people usually pass by, but making the effort to go there will be worth the trip once you try their food and experience good company throughout your stay. 🙂
Review of El Cangrejo – Crab, Seafood and Steak Bistro (South Triangle, Quezon City)
As the heavy glass doors hiss shut behind your back, breathe. You’d smell the fresh aroma of lemon in the air-conditioned dining room. Next, your eyes would wander around the framed photographs, which were taken by the owner of the bistro himself and some by his friends. The interior design was personalized and crafted according to the owner’s preference and instruction. The rusty feel of the brick walls gives a hint of drama, completing the industrial, old look to the otherwise chic atmosphere.
Staffs were pleasant and courteous. Upon the customer’s entrance, they escort you to your seats and ask if you want to be served with drinks. They refill glasses with water quickly and stay available for any request customers might have. They answer questions regarding the food they offer and they’re knowledgeable about the eats. All in all, the good service at El Cangrejo makes it an outstanding place to bring your family and friends as you won’t be discomfited.
We started with Baked Scallops (PHp 395) which were soft and easy to take out from the shells. The butter’s taste was very evident. So good! Add to that a squeeze of lemon and fresh greens as a mild counterpoint and you get a perfect appetizer to a meal. Note that each order typically consists of an average of 15 pieces of scallops. The count varies accordingly to the sizes of the scallop, so you may expect to have more if they come in smaller sizes and less if they come in bigger ones.
Next up was the Shrimp Cocktail (PHp 295). I posted a picture of this appetizer on my Instagram account and immediately, it gained many likes. Why not? Its presentation was a complete stunner. I have not encountered a similar dish before, so I was surprised that the plump and tender shrimps were eaten cold. It came with ordinary tomato sauce, but what lies beneath making it slightly unconventional were the shredded cabbages that sopped the flavor of the dip and added texture to it.
The only dish we had that night that’s not categorized under “Seafood” was the Boneless Buffalo Wings (PHp 235). El Cangrejo’s boneless buffalo wings were almost greaselessly fried with the skin remaining intact, so they stayed crispy and crunchy. The chunks of buffalo wings would make as good pica picas (pulutan) as they’re spicy and somewhat nutty. A thin coat of mayo and lemon really helped in toning down the spice.
Last in the parade of appetizers were the Clam Steamers (PHp 150). I appreciated the ingenuity of using only the natural saltiness of the clams and not adding salt to make the sauce.
The complementary homemade bread for this dish could be dipped into the balsamic vinegar with olive oil or the orange sauce of the clam steamers. They had two stark opposite tastes, thus it’s better to choose only one at a time to avoid the contrast.
Just when I thought we were done for dinner, the main entrees began to come out. 😯 Whoa, seeing these gorgeous-looking Crabmeat Raviolis made me wonder what the black coat was made out of. Apparently, the coating was made with squid ink and tasted as a seafaring flavor, a jolt of the unexpected. The crab meat stuffing was also good, although I met a few tiny crab shells still in it.
The Grilled Ulang tossed in Beurre Noisette (PHp 595) indeed commanded attention. What’s in a name, Ulang, huh? I was too shy to ask. 😛 I consulted Wikipedia instead and learned that Ulang (Tagalog) translates to “Giant Freshwater Shrimp” in English. What sets them apart from prawns are their “antennae” and larger heads. The grilled ulang was wow-perfect as they were dressed with the sweet-smelling hazelnut butter sauce. The mashed potatoes, I thought, lacked moisture, creaminess and robust flavor (maybe salt). Regardless, it was filling.
The next two entrees, the Grilled Prawns Aglio Olio (PHp 395) and Fish and Chips with Homemade Tartare Sauce (PHp 370) were the dishes I liked the least. You can order them if you want comfort food; these make an instant recall to our list of most familiar food. But other than that, I don’t suggest choosing them out of the many other great food listed on El Cangrejo’s menu.
Or it could be just me—I’m not a pasta person and also not one who’s fond of eating the same typical food (ahem, fries) in every restaurant every time. Even so, I tasted them. Worth to mention was that the fries were thick and robust (like KFC’s). Yup, they are fries for the true potato lover.
We were given maroon bibs before eating the Steamed Mud Crabs tossed in Beurre Noisette (PHp 595). These crabs had the same burned butter sauce that appealed to our palate as in the Grilled Ulang. They tasted as great as they appear on the picture. And listen, it can be hard to eat them without rolling up your sleeves. It’s wise to use your hands and go comfortable to dig the crab meat. Smash the shells with the tools given and suck every morsel of the succulent sweet crab. With that said, the mud crab is not a first date kind of a dish.
This plate consisted of about 500-600 grams of crab (El Cangrejo’s standard range). It’s said to be good for one person, but I totally disagree. (I’m speaking for myself only.) There’s no way I could finish that alone! This course is served with a choice of (1) Caesar salad or farmhouse salad or sauteed vegetables and (2) roasted mashed potatoes or fresh-cut fries or plain rice or garlic rice. So do you think one can manage to finish everything? If yes, I challenge you. Feel free to leave your comment in the Comments section to share your experience. I know I’d be in awe! 😀
For desserts, we had the Apple Pie Ala Mode (PHp 150). The outer layer had a dense, buttery crumb that beckons you to take bite after bite. My tummy was so full but could not resist it! A shell of crisped pastry cracked off the top like an apple pie turnover. The dollop of white cream easily blended as one integrated yummy cake.
The El Cangrejo Special Cake (PHp 190) was not to be missed as well. It’s a chocolate cheesecake with blueberry on top—super creamy, tasty and sinfully divine. The cake melts in your mouth and you may feel like the rest of the world is melting away. It’s so savory that you may finish one slice in a flash. I know it’s sometimes hard to help yourself, but watch out on the calories. 😛
For the drinks, we had a bottle of fine white wine (La Umbra Pinot Grigio 2011) which came from Italy. It was a fresh wine with aromas of green pears and juicy nectarines. I drink wine occasionally so I’m sorry to report that I could not differentiate its taste to all the other white wines I’ve sampled. 😛
Also, we had El Cangrejo’s Homebrewed Iced Tea (PHp 65) that was too strong for me. It had a lip-smacking aftertaste of lemon, lime and honey (not sure) and so deadly sweet that I had to request for a glass of plain water to neutralize my palate.
Price for Value: ★★★★☆
With copious serving and excellent quality of food, prices of food are reasonable here. I’d say that El Cangrejo makes a suitable venue to celebrate the upcoming Valentine’s Day or the nearer special holiday, Chinese New Year. If your significant other starts to drop Olympic-sized mentions about romantic dining places to spend Valentine’s Day, El Cangrejo – Crab, Seafood and Steak Bistro in Timog has got you covered! Hey, they also do catering services so if you’re interested, see their contact numbers below to inquire.
The only downside I found in El Cangrejo for now is its location. It’s a healthy drive from anywhere who’s within or near Quezon City, especially those who are coming from the nearby hospitals, condominiums, and commercial offices (ABS-CBN and GMA networks), but it does not take one smooth train or bus ride to get there for those who are living and/or working far. Also, the establishment still has not posed a big signage outside to draw people’s attention to come visit the restaurant, so they run the risk of losing a stature.
Operating hours: Monday to Sunday, 11:00 am – 12:00 am