Karai Crab: another seafood boil restaurant landed in Honolulu
Karai Crab seemed more promising than the slew of recently landed seafood boil restaurants. In addition to the usual fried sides, there's local sweet corn (the first of all the places to offer non-frozen corn!), bacon jalapeño cornbread and garlic noodles. The seafood comes in big, wide bowls instead of plastic bags and some of it is actually cooked properly, instead of to rubbery shreds. But in Karai's effort to differentiate itself from the others—providing a more civilized atmosphere (forks! bowls! plates!) than the other kitschy, casual crab shacks awash with plastic bags and styrofoam cups, they may have missed the messy, fun point of the seafood boil restaurant.
None of that would really matter, though, if all the seafood were perfect, which it's not. Shrimp and clams are good. I would come back for these with a side of potatoes, corn and garlic noodles. Crawfish are ok. (I think we should give up on crawfish if we can't import it live. Cooked, frozen crawfish is unpleasantly mealy.) Out of a bowl of eight mussels, two weren't open (not a good sign).The dungeness crab was fine, but the snow crab was not, with its whiff of ammonia that indicates old seafood.
The seasonings are all pretty tasty (cajun, Karai special, lemon pepper among them), if you can get past the ridiculously thick layer of butter, which ends up muting a lot of the flavors. I like butter, but I also like balance.
In some of the details, you can tell that Karai cares more about the food quality than some of the others places, but it's not consistent. If they could get that down, I'd feel less crabby.
901 Hausten St. (Karai Crab is part of The Willows), 952-6990, karaicrab.com