I was excited by the possibility of heat and spice promised in the name Karai Crab, but it's only after I sat down and saw the restaurant's crab logo and that fiery furnace of a mouth that I felt a little scared by just how much heat would arrive.
I like spicy food, and can practically drink Sriracha, but things are a quite a bit hotter here. I slipped in before a media preview Sept. 21, and this half order of "No Mess" (that is, peeled) shrimp nearly killed my tastebuds with its so-called "medium" cayenne-pepper heat. If this was medium, I don't know if I really wanted to explore spicy (habanero heat) or extra spicy (ghost pepper heat).
Luckily, I had ordered mussels with habanero sauce before trying the cayenne, and I liked the habañero much more, which here, is more of a glowy, citrusy heat than a burning one like the cayenne.
No Mess shrimp really absorbed the heat. I and my dinner companion could only manage one apiece, so the rest went to waste.
I was afraid to tackle the ghost pepper heat, but took a tentative bite later on at the media lunch that followed the restaurant's blessing. And I liked that too. Even so, it did have a sting so I had to alternate between dipping pieces of king crab leg in habañero and ghost pepper sauces that were served on the side, along with garlic butter.
Before visiting the restaurant, I wondered how it would find its niche, considering its latecomer status as the fourth crab restaurant to open within six months. But, the flavors are delicious and they're working to differentiate themselves from the pack with chef's specials and new sauces that will keep visits interesting over time. And, you can see the clean presentation, sans plastic bags:
Honolulu Pulse blog Food La La is really squeamish about pulling a crab apart getting her hands dirty. She tackles a Karai Combo ($25) with crab legs available separately at market price.
King crab legs added to a Karai combo bowl.
Bacon-jalapeno cornbread is good for cutting the heat of the chilies.————
Karai Crab is at The Willows, with separate makai building and entrance, 901 Hausten St. Call 952-6990.