About a year ago, a new food trend emerged in Toronto - boiled and bagged seafood restaurants. It wasn't until this year that I had the opportunity to test it out. Correct me if I'm wrong, but The Captain's Boil is the first of its kind in the GTA with additional locations all across Canada. Last week, Charles and I visited the Scarborough location (4505 Sheppard Avenue East - 15 minutes from my house) for a Friday night date. This wasn't my first time at the restaurant, but it was Charles's first.
photo by Charles Cheung
Most of the food at The Captain's Boil is served family style, utensils optional - which can be difficult at times. Luckily, you're provided with everything you need - sharp, clean tools including scissors and seafood crackers, a roll of paper towel, and even gloves and plastic bibs.
The service. Is there such a thing as being too friendly? There were 4 or 5 different waiters that came and asked us how we were doing at several points during the meal. It wasn't like the restaurant was empty or anything. The attention was nice, albeit a tad awkward because most interactions were in the midst of some messy face stuffing. That being said, we were never without a full glass of water or paper towels to wipe our mouths.
Further, staff were friendly and well-informed in terms of the menu (like they've actually eaten at the restaurant before). Charles and I were curious as to the difference between the king crab vs. Dungeness crab vs. the crab legs and shrimp vs. crawfish. Our server responded quickly and clearly to our many questions, letting us know which options would suit our preferences best.
The ambiance. Well lit. The decor is modern, with a few touches of "the sea" - fish nets, shellfish motifs, etc. Seating was a combination of booths and tables. There was also a fire place, which kept things feeling cozy.
The menu. The menu is easy and straightforward to follow. If it's your first time at the Captain's Boil, then let a waiter know and they'll break it down for you. In a nutshell, there's the "eat with your hands" seafood in a bag + add-ons, then there's everything else.
Seafood options include Crawfish (seasonal price), Lobster (seasonal price), Dungeness Crab (seasonal price), King Crab ($36.95/lb), Snow Crab ($18.95/lb), Shrimps ($12.95/lb), Clams ($12.95/lb) and Mussels ($10.95/lb). These are all served in a bag with your choice of sauce - Cajun, Lemon Pepper, Garlic or Captain's Boil (all three combined) - and level of heat - Non-Spicy, Mild, Medium and Fire.
Then, there's add-ons, which can be served with your seafood (in the sauce) or on the side with butter. These include corn, okra, potatoes, broccoli, sausages, etc.
"Everything else" includes stuff like french fries, sweet potato fries, chicken wings, fried rice, garlic bread, seafood platters etc.
The pricing. It's comparable to what you'd pay at another seafood restaurant, if not less for the amount of seafood you're getting. However, if you're comfortable with cooking seafood at home, it's probably not the best deal. You're looking at $15 to $30 per person (lunch or dinner), depending on which seafood and sides you order.
The food. We started with the Cajun Fried Rice because I had heard good things from a friend. It's not my Chinese grandmother's soy sauce egg, corn, green peas, shrimp and BBQ pork fried rice. Instead, it's rich, buttery, a touch spicy, and is topped with a hearty amount of baby shrimp and baby scallops. Charles found the rice to be a touch undercooked for his preferences, but I found it to be al dente and to my liking. We also found that the rice was especially good for mixing with leftover sauce, though adding too much sauce would leave the rice feeling a little heavy and greasy.
photos by Charles Cheung
Next, we ordered the Dungeness crab and the shrimp with a potato and corn in the bag. With the Captain's Boil sauce, of course... because it's a classic and something that I've started to crave every time I think about seafood. There's something about the combination of spicy, garlic, salty and buttery that hits the spot for me. My guess is that the seafood gets shaken up in the bag, which helps to distribute the sauce evenly.
On another occasion, I had ordered french fries with my meal and the extra Captain's Boil sauce at the bottom of the bag was 390190238123 times better than ketchup.
All in all, great service and delicious food - but keep in mind that you've got your work cut out for you when you order the seafood in the bag! It was an odd first experience for Charles, I'm sure he felt uncomfortable at first. But he said that though it was super messy, it was a fun experience to share together.
Have you been to The Captain's Boil yet?
Complimentary meal provided in exchange for a review.