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REVIEW: You Might Get Lucky at Crawfish Asian Cuisine

By Kyle Young
Published: Last Updated on
Black Pepper Short Rib, Dry Scallop Crab Meat Fried Rice, Chili Oil and Chili Paste

Crawfish Asian Cuisine serves traditional Chinese dishes, fusion dishes and peel-and-eat-style seafood. Co-owners Ken Vong and Da Huang spared no preparation or expense for their special Chinese New Year menu. The exotic and toothsome dishes on their special menu are available through Sunday Feb. 10th.

Crawfish Asian Cuisine Knows How to Party

Upon first entering Crawfish Asian Cuisine (CAC), I admired the beauty and style of their Chinese New Year decorations. Red paper lanterns, blooming flowers, firecrackers and a piggy bank framed the restaurant’s famed crawfish logo.

Chinese New Year decorations including red lanterns, firecrackers and flowers.
Chinese New Year
decorations at Crawfish
Asian Cuisine.
Image: Kyle Young.

Red symbolizes vitality and happiness and gold symbolizes wealth and prosperity in Chinese culture. The ubiquitous red decorations and firecrackers also serve to drive away Nián, a mythological beast said to plague villagers in ancient times.

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, is regarded by many as the most sacred holiday in China. Other countries, Vietnam and Korea to name a couple, also celebrate lunar new year. According to one figure, more than 20% of the world celebrates Chinese New Year.

Preparations for the holiday begin on January 28th, with the official celebration beginning on February 5th. February 4th marked Lunar New Year’s Eve, a time when families enjoy a sacred reunion dinner.

February 5th is the first day of the lunar new year, and it marks the beginning of the Spring Festival.

Chinese New Year ends on February 19th, the day of the Lantern Festival. Just about every day in between has a special significance.

Many in China and across the world take a week off work to celebrate Chinese New Year with family and friends. Vong explained that Chinese New Year is sort of like Christmas and New Year’s rolled into one.

Vong and Huang celebrated Chinese New Year at CAC last year by allowing diners to submit wishes and to pull red envelopes filled with money off a “lucky money tree”. Vong shared that he kept the wishes for safekeeping.

After calling more than twenty restaurants around town, I was surprised to learn that many of the Chinese and Asian-fusion restaurants were not choosing to publicly celebrate Chinese New Year.

I asked Vong why he and Huang chose to celebrate alongside their patrons. Vong said that openly celebrating Chinese New Year helps keep his culture alive independent of where he is in the world. He shared that he and Huang have celebrated Chinese New Year every year that CAC has been open.

Vong and Huang will celebrate CAC’s five-year anniversary this July.

A Special Menu Designed to Inspire Luck

Abalone Chicken Sou
Abalone Chicken
Soup at Asian
Crawfish Cuisine.

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2019 is the year of the pig. CAC pays homage to the pig with their special Chinese New Year menu featuring Braised Pig Hock ($25).

Also included on the special menu is Five Spice Quail ($12), Golden Shrimp Meat Ball ($14), Abalone Chicken Soup (Small $18; Large $28), Lobster Yee Mein ($48), Steamed Whole Fish (Market Price), Black Pepper Short Rib ($25), Dry Scallop Crab Meat Fried Rice ($25) and Sesame Dumpling Soup ($4).

Vong explained that he and Huang chose eight main dishes, excluding the dumpling dessert, because the number eight is said to bring good luck during the new year. The diversity of proteins on the menu are also lucky, because they represent land, sea and air.

Other symbology is present in the menu. The Yee Mein is also known as the “long life noodle”.

Vong said that it’s customary to order a bit more than you expect to eat, so you’ll have leftovers. Those leftovers symbolize savings for the new year.

Jaw-Dropping Dishes from Land, Sea and Air

Five Spice Quail
Five Spice Quail
at Crawfish Asian
That sauce tho..
Image: Kyle Young

Vong graciously served, a literal feast starting with the Five Spice Quail. The dish included two halved quail marinated in rose wine. The dish was stunning. The skin was fragrant, salty and crisp. The meat was moist and tender and had a clean, game bird quality. One of our servers instructed us to squeeze the lime juice into the five-spice salt and use that as the dipping sauce for the quail. The salt, fat, and acid worked together to create something truly spectacular.

Next up was the abalone chicken soup. I had never eaten abalone prior to this meal. Abalone is a broad term used to describe a variety of small to large sea snails.

The soup had a base similar to egg drop soup and it included long strips of abalone, shredded chicken, black mushrooms, cilantro and spring onions. The abalone was partly tender, partly firm and partly chewy. The texture reminded me a bit of chả lụa or Vietnamese ham. Vong outdid himself with a well-thought-out, satisfying dish.

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Vong served the Dry Scallop Crab Meat Fried Rice next. The dish included wok-fried rice, eggs, shredded dried scallops, minced crab meat, and spring onion. The dry scallop pieces were funky and delicious. The scallops had the texture of the really crispy bits on the edges of a fried egg. The fat from the crab added a wonderful richness. The rice was fantastic, but when offered chili oil and chili paste, it was difficult to resist. A touch of their house-made chili oil on the rice added some nice acid, heat, and funk.

Our final entrée was the Black Pepper Short Rib plate. The dish included wok-seared, certified angus beef short ribs with red bell pepper, onions and a honey pepper sauce. Once Vong finished cooking the ribs, he enlisted the help of one of his servers to coordinate the plating of the beef on a sizzling ceramic skillet. The meat was especially fatty and delicious. The fat, vegetables, ginger and sweet heat had me smiling wide. Navigating around the small bones throttled the speed at which I was ready to eat the beefy treasures. I’ll be dreaming of these short ribs all year.

We capped the meal with a wonderfully distinct dessert, the Sesame Dumpling Soup. The dumplings were mochi-like in that they were made from glutinous rice. Their interiors were composed of black sesame seeds. The dumplings danced around in a sweet, ginger-punched broth. Imagine sesame-butter mochi bathed in a sweetness that warms your soul. These dumplings were a fine end to a glorious meal.

The Details

Again, the Chinese New Year menu is available through Sunday Feb. 10th. Asian Crawfish Cuisine is located at 1296 East Plumb Lane, Reno, Nevada 89502. Call in your reservation at (775) 622-6802. They are open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. They are closed on Mondays. Visit them online at crawfishasiancuisine.com.