Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Support quality journalism
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
The Globe and Mail
Support quality journalism
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Globe and Mail website displayed on various devices
Just$1.99
per week
for the first 24 weeks

var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){console.log("scroll");var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1);

Basket of trimmed Alaskan king crab legs presented for table side poaching in seaweed broth at New Fishport Seafood Bistro in Vancouver, on Feb. 25, 2020.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The other night, at New Fishport Seafood Bistro, our table of seven was licking the last crumbs of pineapple-bun pot pies filled with creamy Alaskan king crab and black truffle when my friend Vicky received an alarming text from her brother.

After perusing online posts about how to prepare for a COVID-19 pandemic, he said he was on his way to No Frills to buy a two-week stockpile of quinoa, frozen vegetables and other non-perishables.

“Okay, maybe I’ll do the same – as soon as I finish eating at this Chinese restaurant,” she drolly replied.

Story continues below advertisement

Let the survivalists eat dented tins of tuna. While the rest of the world cowers under surgical masks, we’ll be showing our love for Chinatown (to paraphrase the New York campaign) by lavishly feasting in solidarity on the king of the sea.

I don’t mean to play down the severity of coronavirus and its attendant fears. The panic is real.

But it’s also true that the Chinese restaurant community has been unfairly hit by paranoid rumour-mongering and misinformation. Business is down by as much as 80 per cent in some cases, the BC Asian Restaurant Café Owners Association reports. Food courts are empty and many restaurants have been forced to close or lay off staff as customers stay away.

The upside? There has never been a better time to eat at Chinese restaurants in Metro Vancouver.

At the very top of that list is the return of Alaskan king crab. Real Alaskan king crab, not Russian, at better prices than we’ve seen in years – as low as $29 a pound.

First, a little culinary history: The Alaskan king crab festival was a beloved tradition in Metro Vancouver, going back to the mid-1980s and lasting until a few years ago. At the tail end of the fishing season, usually mid-March, the last of the live catch would be shipped to Vancouver in large quantities and offered, at most Cantonese restaurants, in two-, three- and four-course feasts at substantially reduced prices.

It worked for the Alaskan king crab suppliers, who could quickly sell any surplus that would otherwise decompose in holding tanks. And it worked for the Metro Vancouver restaurants, which used the promotion to lure diners back during the lull after Chinese New Year.

Story continues below advertisement

But then the Chinese economy roared to life, the burgeoning entrepreneurial class developed a taste for “clean” North American seafood and all that sell-off crab we so enjoyed began demanding higher prices and got shipped overseas.

The festival died. King crab was still available in Chinese restaurants, but who knows where it came from. And it was extremely expensive – starting at $68 a pound just a few weeks ago (closer to $100 a pound in Western restaurants).

Then came coronavirus. With most North American flights to China suspended until April, the Alaskan suppliers had to turn back to their closest neighbours when the fishery reopened this week. The first shipment arrived on Tuesday and prices are going down – retailing for about $38 a pound.

King crab costs $48 a pound at New Fishport Seafood Bistro.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

At New Fishport Seafood Bistro, a six-month-old restaurant on SE Marine Drive, it costs $48 a pound. You can definitely find it cheaper because some desperate restaurant owners are swallowing a loss to fill seats.

But you won’t find better quality. New Fishport owner Wendy Dong, one of the main local seafood distributors, has cultivated her connections with the Alaskan suppliers over the years and is acquiring the biggest stash.

Ms. Dong wouldn’t tell me the name of her seafood company. “It’s a secret,” she said through a translator this week.

Story continues below advertisement

She did, however, say, that she is expecting to receive 400 Alaskan king crabs each week until the middle of April. The majority will weigh seven to eight pounds, which she’ll sell to other restaurants. But the most prized crabs – those that weigh nine to 10 pounds, offering a better shell-to-meat ratio – will be reserved for this restaurant.

New Fishport has another secret weapon: master chef Sam Leung, formerly of Dynasty Seafood Restaurant, who quietly re-emerged here after a two-year retirement.

Typically, it’s served two ways: steamed legs slathered in garlic, egg-white XO sauce or ginger-soy sauce; and deep-fried knuckles tossed with crispy garlic and chili sauce. For an additional $5 to $10, the kitchen will usually toss the juices from the steamed leg platters with noodles or pick the meat from the body and turn it into a creamy, Macau-style coconut curry with fried rice.

With Mr. Leung, whose avant-garde creations vaulted Dynasty to crossover success – it was Vancouver Magazine’s restaurant of the year in 2017 – you never quite know what you’re going to expect.

But this four-way Alaskan king crab feast could not be faulted.

Creamy Alaskan king crab pineapple-bun 'pot pies' with black truffle.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

First course: Money bag dumplings filled with cold crab leg, cream and crunchy apple; accompanied by a spicy seaweed salad wrapped in cabbage leaf.

Story continues below advertisement

Second course: Creamy crab and black truffle “pot pies” covered in sweet pineapple-bun pastry. So rich, so French.

Third course: Crab leg shabu shabu, carefully cooked over low heat in a milky seaweed broth, until the white flesh flowered into thin, feathered nodules.

Fourth course: Crab “blood” (otherwise known as the creamy, egg-white-like, collagen-rich proteins that juice from the meat when steamed) set into a wobbly Italian-Japanese custard bursting with basil, subtly slicked with olive oil and anchored by chewy air-dried oysters.

As we lingered over dessert, a show-stopping XLB (xiaolongbao) dumpling stuffed with black sesame, enclosed with candied rose petals and moored in a warm pool of double-boiled ginger milk, I turned to Vicky and asked if she wanted to stop to pick up a case of canned tuna on the way home.

Nah, she said. Let’s take our chances.

Alaskan king crab 'blood' custard with air-dried oysters.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Plan your weekend with our Good Taste newsletter, offering wine advice and reviews, recipes, restaurant news and more. Sign up today.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies