22 Baildon Street, Kangaroo Point
This was my MOST anticipated restaurant opening of 2016. I heard about these guys around the start of the year when they announced they were opening Brisbane's first American-style crabhouse. Since then, I've been following them religiously on social media and listening out for news and updates. St James opened its doors not that long ago and already, it's generated a lot of hype. All of my friends were talking about it and all the Brisbane lifestyle news forum I followed were raving. I couldn't wait to try it out.
I gave it a couple of weeks for the restaurant to find their footing and for the initial chaos to cool. Tidbits of information were flowing through my food network from people who had tried it or wanted to try it and the word on the street was a) they don't take bookings and b) it's a small restaurant so be prepared to wait. Marc and I are really impatient and have a general principle of not waiting for food. We decided to only go on a weekday when it was less likely to be busy.
I ended up taking my mum and dad on a Wednesday night. We got there around 6pm by car and driving past, I felt a wave of relief that there was no queue outside and I could even spot a number of empty tables. Unfortunately in the time it took us to park our car and walk back, these spots were taken. It was a case of superbly bad timing because that meant most of the groups in 4 seat tables had just sat down and hadn't even ordered. We buckled down for a long wait.
If it was just the wait itself, we wouldn't have minded so much but it was fairly awkward. For a while we were the only people standing outside so I felt like a rude bystander over-seeing the people eating inside and willing them to hurry up. It's easy to tell yourself not to look but every now and again the eyes can't help but peer in. I offered to leave my number so we could walk away and come back when a table was ready but they don't do that so you physically have to stand there. All this could be solved if the restaurant was bigger or at least had a bar you could wait at so I'm hopeful that if St James expands, they find a larger venue for their follow-up venture.
It was probably a good 40min before we got seated and ordinarily I have no patience for that type of thing but I had heard so much positive feedback about the food I was determined to try it. What helped was a friendly waitstaff who popped out every now and again to check up on us and give us updates. We never felt forgotten about or neglected.
Once we did get seated, things got better and better. We were able to order food and drink immediately and as soon as beers were brought out all our waiting woes were forgotten.
Shoestring truffle fries with parmesan, cabbage slaw with apple and pinenuts in creamy dressing
True to what I head read from other bloggers, the food didn't take long to come out. The sides arrived first, which included the truffled parmesan fries and coleslaw we ordered, plus complimentary garlic bread that comes served with the crab. The fries were incredible. They had the perfect amount of crunch and there was a distinct truffly undertone. Both my parents commented on how delicious this was.
The coleslaw ended up being the only pinch of green in our entire feast. It was a welcome burst of freshness. At any other restaurant, I could go on about the salad because it was definitely well-made but here, the dishes that followed soon overshadowed this.
The crabs at St James are served in practical plastic bags that hold all the delicious sauce. They are served in 1/2kg lots so rather than restricting yourself to one whole crab you can try a variety. There are then a selection of sauces you can select to go with the crab. We went for Alaskan snow crab with the Baltimore sauce and it was dynamite.
Alaskan snow crab with Baltimore sauce
I don't know what Baltimore sauce is and Googling it now doesn't provide further insight but it was simply incredible. Despite the fact that we wore gloves throughout the meal, our hands continued to smell buttery and delicious through the night. The crab itself was meaty and succulent, tender and sweet. I'm not great at extracting crab from shell but there are tools to help. My dad somehow managed to get entire intact portions of leg out.
Red crayfish with Singapore chili sauce
As well as a range of crab, there are seasonal specials. I took advantage of the availability of live red crayfish and we ordered that in Singapore sweet chili sauce. This is my first time eating crayfish and I liked that the body of flesh separated from the shell very easily. The main heft of crayfish comes from the head and I didn't know what to do with it so I left that be. The sauce was again, so delicious and moreish. We slurped the sauces up with the garlic bread and I even dipped the fries in.
Pot of mussels with marinara sauce
The final main we tried was the 1kg pot of mussels with marinara sauce. The mussels were plentiful and meaty. The marinara sauce was fine but definitely inferior compared to the other sauces of the night. For mussels, I would have preferred a white wine, garlic and cream sauce but that wasn't one of the options.
After my first experience at St James Crabhouse, I'm absolutely buzzing for revisits. The crab and sauces were unreal. I thought the sides were perfectly on par and the selection of beers just adds to the all-round excellent meal. There are also non-crabby things on the menu, such as ribs and burgers and I'm just as keen to try those. Till next time...