At the end of last month we here at Out & About UAE were kindly invited by Joe’s Crab Shack to visit the restaurant on opening day and sample some of the food. We were very excited as this was the first occasion since starting the blog that we had actually been invited to write a review by an establishment. Unfortunately we were unable to attend the event and were disappointed to say the least.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks and we found ourselves by chance in The Dubai Mall. So instead of heading to one of our usual favourite spots for food (The Cheesecake Factory), the decision was made to try out the newly opened Joe’s Crab Shack, to see if we really had missed out by not attending the tasting event on opening day.
Joe’s Crab shack was founded in Houston, Texas in 1991 and soon exploded into a nationwide chain in the USA. The opening in Dubai marks the first international outlet of this franchise, which has an excellent reputation with its clientele. We arrived on a busy Friday lunchtime and the restaurant was almost full – which at any other restaurant would be a good sign, except for the fact that we were in Dubai Mall where everywhere is always crazy busy! We could smell the fried fish as we approached the premises and in all honesty it smelled delicious. Soon enough we were greeted warmly by our server and taken to our seats.
The restaurant is located in an excellent location on the first floor of the mall and the open-fronted architecture looks directly into the world famous Dubai Aquarium – so that you can watch the sharks and manta rays swimming past as you dine. This units location was an excellent choice by the establishment, as it helps to emphasize the seaside theme of the restaurant, which is further enhance by the decor. The walls of the restaurant are emblazoned with slogans such as “eat with your mouth/eat with your hands” which help prepare you for exactly what the dining experience will entail. The restaurant itself is quirky and the walls use wooden cladding like a beach hut in complementing hues of white and orange. For a second we were mistakenly thinking that we could in fact be in the town of Amity from the movie Jaws.
Joe’s Crab Shack is all about fun and this is displayed through the branding of the restaurant – for example the cutlery station is named ‘fishing tackle’ which is a great metaphor for the tools of your dining experience. The seating is a mixture of booths and freestanding and the tables themselves are decorated in fishing maps of the Arabian Gulf (with the UAE front and centre), which was a nice touch. All tables include a roll of paper towel, so you know that things are going to get messy and a large metal bucket to throw all of your waste into.
Staff were easy to recognise as they were dressed in tie-dyed t-shirts adorned with the words “peace love and crabs” which is another fun bit of marketing to help you remember the place. Menus arrived promptly and we were immediately overwhelmed by the beverage selection. As well as the usual refillable sodas that you would expect to find in an American chain like this, there were a number of signature drinks that looked absolutely delicious Examples include honey peach smash (muddled peaches and mint), Southern spiked tea, patio punch and the piña colada – which is actually served in a carved out pineapple with whipped cream and resembles more of a desert as opposed to a drink. We opted for the shark bite purely because we liked the gimmick of the drinks concept.
The Shark Bite is a mixture of orange and blueberry juice that is served in a ridiculously large goblet. The goblet is accompanied by a novelty toy shark, containing a test tube of grenadine within its jaws. When the grenadine is poured into the blueberry concoction, it resembles a trail of blood in the water, like you would expect to find during a shark attack (hence the name)! Though some find this idea inappropriate, the beverage is the most popular one to order and also tastes really good – plus you get to keep the shark.
Now onto the food… the menu on offer at Joe’s in certainly one for seafood lovers. The obvious choice are the buckets of crab and (if ordered) you will be provided with a bib to wear to protect yourself from the inevitable mess that will ensue from the cracking of shells and legs to get to the delicious meat within. There is also a selection of fish, salads, pastas, sandwiches and steam-pots. Luckily those who do not eat seafood are also accommodated (therefore not alienating an entire demographic of diners) with a menu section entitled ‘out of water’ that contains steak and chicken dishes.
We opted for one of the signature platters, so that we could sample a number of the items from the menu. After much deliberation we settled on the East Coast Platter that had a large crab cake, fish, chips, onion strings and shrimp stuffed with crab, cheese and jalapeños. The food arrived quite quickly and though not presented in the most attractive form, it did taste good.
The stuffed prawns were absolutely delightful and you could taste each of the ingredients they were stuffed within. Onion shards tasted identical to the onions rings that accompanied school dinners in the UK when we were children – please note that this is not a negative observation, rather one that brought back an unexpected nostalgic feeling. The crab cake was large but slightly too moussey in texture for our liking, but was still pleasant to eat. The standout item on the platter was in fact the fried fish, which (being British) resembled to us exactly the kind that you would find in a traditional fish and chip shop, and something that we have struggled to find a good replication of here in the Emirates… until now!
Despite being stuffed from the large serving of food on the platter, we were enticed into ordering dessert after seeing the campfire smores listed on the menu. We were only recently introduced to the concept of smores which is an abbreviation of the phrase “some more” and typically involves a sandwich of marshmallow and chocolate between two graham crackers.This is a very American concept that Joe’s Crab Shack have taken and enhanced to the extreme! The campfire smores dessert contains graham crackers layered with a slice of chocolate lava cake, topped with a WHOLE melted Hershey’s chocolate bar, which is then piled with melted marshmallows. When the desert arrived at the table we thought it was unlikely that we would be able to finish the whole portion – but it was so delectable and oozing with chocolaty goodness, that we found ourselves scraping the plate by the end. The marshmallow element contained the smoky taste exactly as you would expect from a campfire. So Joe’s should certainly be commended on the replication of this taste to give the dessert a truly authentic feel.
The service is unfortunately what lets Joe’s down. We were generally ignored by staff, especially when trying to actually get their attention. The pinnacle of the poor service was when the bill was brought to us as soon as we ordered our food – which we found to be very bizarre, and was in fact just shrugged off by the staff when questioned as to the reason why! Though in their defense, the staff do have to participate in a cheesy dance routine each time that the B52’s song ‘Love Shack” plays in the restaurant – which would be enough to depress us if we were to work there!. Though the majority of patrons did seem to love it!
Despite the issues with service, we did enjoy our trip to Joe’s Crab Shack as the food is pretty good, plus it’s a great venue for families. So next time your in The Dubai Mall – instead of gravitating towards P.F. Change or The Cheesecake Factory, maybe contemplate an undersea adventure instead!
Location: The Dubai Mall, 1st Floor (Behind Dubai Aquarium), Downtown Dubai
Opening Hours: 10am – midnight daily.
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.