By Mollie McWilliams
By Molly Gore
By Pete Kane
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By Anna Roth
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We ordered the $39.99 combo, with a bright papaya salad on the side ($7.95) to have a sweetly vegetal hiatus from the spice. The combo included undercooked sweet potato fries, grocery-store garlic bread, and doughy beignets with store-bought ice cream for dessert. A plate of garlic noodles was decent, and, when I began peeling the crawfish over it so the dripping sauce coated the pasta, extraordinary. There is only one reason to come to Red Crawfish — crawfish — and it's reason enough.
We've reached the end of the early summer season, the time of year when the crawdads are tinier, their carapaces bonier. (Incidentally, according to the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board, 90 percent of all crawfish sold in the United States come from Louisiana. Since the state's 111,000 acres of crawfish ponds are all freshwater, they're untouched by the Gulf oil spill.)
San Francisco, CA 94122
Region: Sunset (Outer)
611 Larkin (at Eddy), 771-1388, www.redcrawfishsf.com. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sun.-Fri., 6-10 p.m. Sat. Major credit cards accepted. Muni: 19, 31. Noise level: loud.
2333 Irving (at 24th Ave.), 665-6033, www.sjcrawfish.com. Noon-10 p.m. daily. Cash only. Muni: 16X, 31, N.
Despite missing peak crawfish season, Red Crawfish's signature dish comes boiled in a spice-riddled broth, then tossed in garlic butter. Garlic fumes rolled off the crawfish as we peeled them, and the meat underneath was cooked perfectly, all juice and pop. The Vietnamese influence? The lime-pepper dipping sauce I swabbed each piece of tail in. The same grainy DIY mixture that comes with shaking beef, the citrus dip sent up a flare of acid and salt, a spark that seemed to ignite the flames of the cayenne that soon burned my tongue and cheeks. And once I unfurled a few of the tails and found the shells clean, I greeted each mudbug with a sharp slurp of its head, catching the few drops of concentrated crawfish juice and sweet butter that pooled in the cavity. The crustaceans may have been clean, but after an hour of peeling and sucking, my hands were shiny enough to reflect the lights overhead, and the white butcher paper beneath my plate had become an abstract expressionist masterpiece. The scene looked disgusting. It couldn't have made me any more content.
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