Kep’s crab shack row continues to expand with new offerings, and previously ignored hole-in-the-walls are now getting our attention as we attempt to eat at every crab shack in Kep. If you haven’t read our Kep crab shack face-off part one and part two, start there. We’re just back from a business trip to Kep (read: we were hungry for crab) and have more crab shack reviews to add to our growing list.
This slightly more sophisticated crab shack is French-owned and it shows. The lighting is better, for one, there is art on the walls, and there’s a proper bar up front, usually with a few Kep expats hanging around. The menu is smaller than the average crab shack binder full of 60 dishes, but they still have most of the usual favorites, steamed crab, crab with Kampot pepper, crab with curry sauce, battered prawns, stir-fried squid…you get the idea. They also have French dishes, including a very nice fish tartare, plus other Western dishes like steak and hot dogs. If you’re with someone that is sick of seafood (it does happen after a few days) but you aren’t, this is a good place to go.
We tried the curry crab, prawns with pepper sauce, fish tartare, steamed fish with lemongrass, and mango salad. All were good, particularly the fish tartare and steamed fish with lemongrass, which was served with minced herbs and vegetables in a style that was as much French as it was Cambodian. The curry crab was more expensive than crab dishes at the more “rustic” crab shacks, but not by much. $8 gets a large bowl of curry with three medium sized crabs, and it was quite a lot of food — more than enough for a meal. In general, the dishes were marginally more expensive than the locally owned places, but more care was put into the preparation. For example, you can order the crab out of the shell, if you don’t feel like wrestling it yourself. So if you’re looking for something a bit more high-end, Maelis a good choice.
Crab Market, Kep
T: 097 389 9201
Mlop Dong Srey Mao
Unassuming Mlop Dong Srey Mao packs a punch. In the middle of Crab Shack Row, the restaurant looks the same as the rest from the outside, but has a marginally nicer interior — they have warm lights instead of the harsh fluorescents at the other places. Although my obsession with lighting may seem strange, once you’ve eaten 10 straight meals in the crab shacks, you’ll come to appreciate seeing your food under decent lighting. Mlop Dong Srey Mao offered good value for money. Prices are similar to the rest of the crab shacks; all of the crab dishes cost 25,000 riel ($6.25) for a “small” plate with three crabs, and the shrimp and squid dishes cost 20,000 riel ($5) for a small plate that was large enough to be a meal.
We tried the fried crab with thin vermicelli, shrimp curry soup, stir-fried morning glory, and potatoes with garlic. The shrimp curry soup was excellent — large, juicy prawns in a Cambodian curry with potatoes for 20,000 riel ($5). Crab with vermicelli (thin rice stick noodles) is always a risky order. When it’s good, it’s good, but it’s often not. In this case it was uninspired; the noodles were bland and had clearly been fried in oil with no spices or flavorings, but the crabs were good. The morning glory was as you’d expect, i.e. the same as at every other restaurant in Cambodia, and the potatoes with garlic were surprisingly good.
Crab Market, Kep
T: 012 663 404; 092 944 968; 097 700 1616
Chau Chau was one of the few crab shacks I haven’t tried, so in my quest to obsessively document all of Kep’s Crab Shack Row, I headed in. I don’t have a lot to say about the place; it was pretty average. They have a picture menu with stolen photos (as is the norm), and crab dishes cost cost $6 for a plate with three crabs. You can choose either rock crabs or blue crabs, but when we visited they only had the ubiquitous blue crabs. We tried crabs with green pepper, fried squid with lemongrass, and curry prawns. The crab was good, but the rest were mundane. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t exciting enough to get me to write more than a paragraph about.
Crab Market, Kep
T: 017 778 164
Another French-owned hybrid, La Baraka is more restaurant than crab shack with actual decor and background music. We’d been to La Baraka for drinks and dessert before (they serve locally made LyLy ice cream), but hadn’t ever eaten there. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived we were almost crabbed out, so we didn’t get the standards that we usually use to compare each restaurant. At La Baraka we got mackerel on toast, crab amok, and a hamburger. The mackerel on toast was revolting. Using cheap canned mackerel when there’s abundant mackerel next door at the crab market was a mistake. The crab amok was delicious, though, and it was nice to eat crab for once that we didn’t have to pick clean ourselves. The hamburger was fine — better than what you’d get at a Khmer restaurant and about average for a Western restaurant. Overall, a good choice for those that are looking for both Western and Cambodian fare.
Crab Market, Kep
T: 097 461 2543