Diner: Mixed Motifs

Covington seafood restaurant is hit-and-miss

Dec 14, 2000 at 2:06 pm

Crab 'N' Creations
Go: 433 Johnson St., Covington
Call: 859-491-9888
Hours: Monday­Saturday 4-11 p.m., Sunday 4-10 p.m.
Prices: Moderate to Expensive
Payment: All major credit cards
Vegetarian Friendliness: If you don't eat seafood, forget about it.

In the words of my husband, "This is either going to be really good, or really bad." No sentiment could be more fitting for the feeling one has upon entering Crab 'N' Creations, a seafood restaurant open for about a year in Covington. The red building just off Fifth Street, once home to a string of nightclubs, seems like an ideal location for a nice restaurant. Especially if it can deliver great seafood. But our first impressions — even before tasting a single morsel — prompted us to wonder if we had uncovered a hidden gem or just stumbled into another mediocre restaurant.

From the moment we entered, we were confused by the mixed motifs. From the name, I expected a nautical theme: Maybe a dinghy, a few fishermen's nets, you know, Red Lobster stuff. Although there were a few brightly colored sails hanging from the ceiling, there were many more oriental accents including an entryway bridge covering a rock garden and several lanterns scattered throughout the mammoth dining room.

The place has the feel of an expansive nightclub with a soaring ceiling. What likely was a dance floor once upon a time is now filled to the brim with tables covered with white linen.

Bordering the "dance floor" are several more intimate booths at one end and the open kitchen at the other. For a little romance, the main dining room features two circular booths draped in dramatic white tents for private dining.

We had called ahead and made reservations, although none would have been necessary this night: We were one of three tables in the entire place. That's not a good sign.

Our host/server seated us at one of the four-tops in the main dining room, giving us a view of the kitchen area, flanked by tanks typical for holding lobster and crab. But not tonight. Both tanks were empty and looked like they were in the midst of being repaired.

We ordered a few bottled beers while we looked over the appetizer selection. Shrimp, crab, mussels, and calamari in a nut shell (or clam shell, I should say). We passed on the Garlic Shrimp ($6.95) and the Crab Rangoon ($5.95 for six) and opted for the steamed Blue Crab Claws ($6.95), which were disappointing. I liked that the claws were pre-opened for convenience, but I suspect that was the reason they tasted so dry and bland, no matter how much lemon and butter we used. However, my husband was pleased with his bowl of Seafood Gumbo ($3.95; $2.25 for a cup). It was served steaming hot and full of chunks of shrimp, scallops and fish.

Selecting an entrée was a little more difficult. Although there were many selections on the four page, home-computer-printed menu, nothing struck me as unusual. There were a few fettuccini dishes with shrimp, scallops, mussels, or combinations ($12.95-$14.95), as well as sautéed dishes, including Frogs Legs ($14.95) and Scallops ($16.95.) Of course, there were crab and lobster: King Crab Legs ($32.95), Snow Crab ($16.95) or live Whole Dungeness Crab ($21.95-$24.95) when in season, and whole Live Lobster (market) and Broiled Lobster Tail ($38.95). These are followed by an entire page of steaks and/or surf and turf selections, ranging from Steak and Jumbo Shrimp ($17.95) to Filet and Lobster Tail ($44.95).

We both eyed the fresh catch selections, prepared chargrilled, Cajun, broiled, deep-fried or steamed "Oriental style." Although marked by the disclaimer, "subject to availability," the menu boasts numerous fish, including swordfish ($18.95), grouper ($16.95), Hawaiian Ahi tuna ($18.95), Mahi Mahi ($16.95), orange roughy ($16.95), salmon ($16.95) and halibut ($18.95). With no grouper, tuna or halibut available tonight, my husband ordered the Grilled Swordfish with fried rice and tossed salad.

However, when we were midway through our typical iceberg mixed salads, our server brought a menu back to my husband, informing him that the swordfish was also "unavailable." Not too excited with the remaining fresh catch choices, he ordered from the "Taste of the Orient" section: Pearls of Seven Seas ($18.95). The dish included shrimp, scallops, lobster meat and fresh vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and baby corn, in a light wine and butter sauce. He was pleased with his alternative, and thought the seafood was very fresh and well prepared.

My Shrimp Scampi ($15.95) — jumbo shrimp and mushrooms sautéed in butter with just a hint of garlic — were plump and fresh, but again, a little bland. I would have preferred more garlic. Both dishes were artfully presented with large pieces of seafood, colorful vegetables and steaming rice.

Crab 'N' Creations' many inconsistencies — from the on-again, off-again service to the quality of the food itself — make it difficult to categorize. Unfortunately, my husband's hunch was way off. The place is neither great nor terrible, but perhaps just another place we will have visited once. ©