By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
The stone-crab claws at Truluck's Steak and Stone Crab, the Addison restaurant that just replicated in the former Fog City Diner space on McKinney, are ruinously expensive. A sampler platter consisting of a pair each of medium, large, and jumbo claws plus one colossal one is around 50 bucks.
That's why I was thrilled to learn that Coconut Grill, the new casual seafood venue on Skillman Avenue in the former Blue Conch digs, was offering all-you-can-eat stone crabs Monday nights for $16.95. (Truluck's has the same Monday-night deal for $34.95.) Stone crabs, shellfish that congregate mostly around Florida and the Caribbean, have large crusher claws they can jettison when spooked. Hence, fisherman harvest the crabs, lop off that claw, and toss the amputees back in the water, where they regenerate another lemon-butter dipper in roughly 18 months.
The meat isn't generally as rich as snow or king crab, but it tends to be succulent. Coconut Grill serves its dismembered crustaceans either hot or cold.
A handful of unbroken claws is delivered in a basket along with a mallet, a cracker, and a board upon which to smash the appendages. This creates all sorts of relentless all-you-can-eat havoc with racket and crab debris exploding everywhere. I witnessed one man, planted on a barstool, catapulting a piece of claw shell through the air and right into the cleavage of the startled bartender. Kinetic entertainment is what this is.
Unfortunately, eating the stuff is far less engaging. Though much better than the hot claws, which tended to be overcooked, dry, and fibrous, the cold crushers were still mushy (some of them squirted) and relatively flavorless. A side of mustard sauce did little to ease the pain.
Lest you think the above was just a case of mishandled body parts, let me assure you that whole crab cadavers were just as disabled. A pair of grilled soft-shell crabs plopped on a bed of rice pilaf were tough and rubbery on the outside, bland and squishy on the inside.
Items off the sandwich side of the menu were more successful. The fish sandwich, grilled or fried tilapia on a bun with tomato slices, shreds of lettuce, and a chunkless tartar sauce, was moist and fresh, but strenuously bland. Fish tacos were similar. While the soft tortillas held creamy ripe avocado wedges and fresh pico de gallo, they were saddled with moist but flaccidly flavored fried fish. A side of bright red salsa, culinary napalm without any redeeming roundness, was utterly useless as a taste enhancer.
The only item that seemed to hold its own was the boiled shrimp: six pieces of moist, firm, and sweet half-moon krill with cocktail sauce.
A partnership between Aw Shucks and Blue Goose founder Bob Peterson (who also owned Blue Conch) and Tom O'Leary, owner of the defunct O'Leary's Bar & Grill, Coconut Grill is a cool, crisp neighborhood slot with a spectacularly detailed beach mural painted on the walls. Apply that same brush to the food, and this place would be unsinkable.
Tipperary Inn. 5815 Live Oak at Skillman, (214) 823-7167. Open daily 4 p.m.-2 a.m. $-$$