Montreal’s West Island has, seemingly overnight, become a hub for Southern-style seafood boils, with the recent opening of two new casual dining spots.
Ooh! Crabe was the first to open, on November 1 (after a brief takeout-only soft opening), out in Pierrefonds, in the West Island’s northern reach. A few days later, on November 6, Seau de Crabe landed on the scene, but in Pointe-Claire. The latter is part of a fledgling franchise, with another location off-island, in Laval, and one considerably farther-flung, in Dubai.
The two new restaurants specialize in seafood boils, a meal of Cajun-spiced seafood, corn, and potatoes, typically eaten communally — usually donning a plastic bib — that’s a staple in Southern United States. The dish, however, has roots in Canada’s Maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island), from which thousands of Acadians were deported in the mid-1700s. Many landed in Louisiana, bringing with them Acadian food traditions.
At both Ooh! Crabe and Seau de Crabe, diners are led on a choose-your-own-seafood-adventure. First, they must pick their catch (shrimp, mussel, lobster, crab or a mix), then their flavours (either a Cajun sauce or signature house option), followed by their preferred level of spice, and add-ons (boiled potatoes, corn, or rice). While Seau de Crabe keeps details about its sauce under wraps, Ooh! Crabe describes it as “lemon pepper.”
Other than the boil, the restaurants are offering up a similar array of fried fare, including baskets of battered calamari, mozzarella sticks, and French fries. Ooh! Crabe lists a few additional options, including fish and chips, “loaded sausages” with potatoes, cheddar, pickled jalapeño, and a somewhat unexpected shrimp Alfredo. (Worth noting: Though shrimp Alfredo is hardly a standard at Cajun restaurants down south, creamy seafood pastas, like crawfish Monica, are.)
Southern food options are scant in Montreal, save for a few exceptions. Chief among them is Bistro Nolah, widely considered one of the West Island’s best restaurants. The restaurant serves gumbo, grits, jambalaya, and plenty of succulent Cajun-spiced seafood dishes, but seafood boil itself doesn’t currently appear on the menu. Both Ooh! Crabe and Seau de Crabe may have noticed that.
Ooh! Crabe is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 4820 Boulevard Saint-Jean.
Seau de Crabe is open daily from 12 to 10 p.m. at 1866 Sources Boulevard.