OURS is a nation blessed with the sea’s bounty yet
some of us do poorly by it. A fish is to fry, we think. So
we slosh it with batter or jacket it in bread crumbs and
plunk it into bubbling oil. There’s nothing wrong with
fried fish but there are too many kinds of fish to lump in
the same kettle.
From a catch far less impressive than our own, the
French have built an inspired repertoire of recipes. The
Scandinavians know dozens of ways to prepare salmon
and herring; the Greeks do exciting things with squid; the
Italians—well, it was they who taught the French to
cook; the Chinese whish shrimps in and out of a wok with a crunch of green
vegetables so that it’s irresistibly succulent; the Japanese have made an art and
ritual of sushi.
But this is not to say we don’t have some classics of our own.
At the Red Crab Seafood and Steaks, it’s hard to top
Crab Adobo sautéed in rich crab aligi, ginger and spices,
for example. Or the spicy Sizzling Gambas sautéed in
tomato sauce, or the Grilled Pampano with Tagilo, which
is fermented rice and shrimps.
Owned and managed by Chiqui Eusebio and her children
Raymund, Maricel, Chang and Nikki, the Red Crab
opened its first branch three years ago in Clark. Their
clientele are "those who spend a lot on seafoods and
steaks after a mean game of golf at the Mimosa Leisure
Estate or losing in the casino." After a year, outlets were
put up at 536 Remedios St., Malate, Manila and at 184 Tomas Morato, QC a
Patterned after the fastfood restaurant Red Lobster which has over 600 branches
in the United States, the Red Crab is into fine dining "which aims to serve the best
seafoods and premium steaks in a relaxed ambience."
The core of the menu are the 12 crab dishes that are steamed, deep-fried,
Szechuan, Singaporean chili, Lungkow, Tauchi, relleno, sautéed in coconut milk,
crab fat, olive oil, miswa and celery or cooked in black beans and oyster sauce.
"The menu is constantly evolving, depending on the tastes of our customers. They
can even go into the kitchen to make sure their preferences are followed," says
In fact, some appetizing suggestions have been part of the restaurant’s menu:
Crab Lilian, sautéed in coconut milk, marinated and spiced with native chili
peppers, which was named after a family friend, Lilian Limjoco; and Crab
Maritess, cooked in olive oil, butter and wine and topped with chili peppers and
garlic, also named after a regular client, Maritess Araneta. They’re now
experimenting on Thai Chili Crab and Pepper Crab.
Delicious fresh catch
Shellfish, especially crustaceans, have been known to contain high cholesterol.
But their greatest drawback is that they often cause allergic reactions and also, if
not absolutely fresh, can poison you. Sometimes you have to struggle to get them
out of the shells, as is the case with oysters, or put up with a revolting appearance
as with squids.
But Raymund makes sure that their crabs, which mostly weigh from 1-1.5 kilos,
are delivered alive and well from Pampanga and Bataan to their three outlets.
"We don’t really go for size but for consistency, sweetness of meat and the
orangey quality of fat." He also adds that their boneless bangus and panga from
General Santos are blast frozen.
Aside from seafoods, the Red Crab also proffers US black angus and New
Zealand premium cuts, soups, salads, vegetables, barbecue and deep-fried
specials, grilled favorites, pasta collection, meals for kids, desserts and native
dishes from Pampanga. There’s also the Combination Platter of Fillet Mignon
paired either with Garlic Prawns, Tempura, Norwegian Salmon, Grilled Lobster
or Grilled Blue Marlin and served with soup of the day, fresh greens, salad and
steamed rice or any potato sidings.
With such cuisine that evokes down-to-earth pleasures, one won’t leave the
place with a feeling of dissatisfaction.
Family of cooks
Since the Magdaluyos have been born and raised in an evocative location such as
Pampanga where their mother and grandma cultivated an art as delicate as it is
succulent, the siblings have acquired the region’s culinary refinement.
Cuisine is one of the strong points of their 80-year-old grandmother Amanda,
who prepares the sauces for Red Crab’s heavenly creations. A cusinera de
campanilla in San Fernando, Pampanga, all she has to do is taste a dish
however elaborate, to know immediately what ingredients it contains and in what
proportions, how long it was cooked and how she can improve it. Evidently,
grandma’s genes have been passed on to the grandchildren. Chang is "naturally
gifted" when it comes to cooking. She manages the 6-sq m Minindal in SM
Pampanga, which serves Pampango merienda fare, and helps their mom in
overseeing the Red Crab outlet in Clark. Nikki is a spectacle once in the kitchen.
Nothing escapes her nose, her taste buds and her instincts as a chef.
Raymund, for his part, runs the outlets in Manila and Quezon City. A
management economics graduate, he took up urban planning for his postgraduate
studies then joined the Asian Institute of Management’s Policy Center for three
years. He now teaches city development at Ateneo and occasionally does
projects for Palafox Associates.
Together with their eldest sister, Maricel, who is a doctor, they have formed the
RMCN Seafoods and Steaks and the Red Crab Food Group, which plans to
cater for special functions of 50-100 persons.
Truly, we can do better by most of our catch. And the Red Crab shows that if
we lavish half as much passion on the cooking of seafoods as we do on the
catching, we’d do very well indeed.