From the Ocean to Your Table
Amongst Steveston Harbour’s fishing boats you will find The Crab King, a floating restaurant offering an up close and personal encounter with Canada’s largest commercial fishing fleet. Being level with the water offers a unique dining experience unlike any other restaurant in the area.
Here you will have a first hand look at vessels returning with their haul, and you may even catch fisherman Ha Dinh (father of Van Dinh, The Crab King’s owner and chef) unloading his freshly caught Dungeness crabs from his boat, the Hai Phong. It doesn’t get fresher than this. In fact, Van reports this is one of the standout features of his business.
The Crab King takes great pride in delivering crabs directly “from the ocean to your table.”
The business opened in 2011. It was originally an open-air concept; however, the limitations of rain and wind necessitated enclosing the space, allowing customers to dine inside. Once a roof and walls were incorporated this also gave Van an opportunity to apply for a liquor license.
In 1988 the Dinh family fled their homeland, Vietnam. After a short spell in Hong Kong they made their way to Canada. They called Toronto home for a few years but ended up relocating to the west coast where Ha Dinh worked as a fisherman in Tofino. Van began fishing with his father at an early age, but he did not follow his father’s career path and instead became an air conditioning mechanic.
It was during a visit to a Seattle restaurant, which specializes in crab, that Van’s concept of The Crab King was born. He realized the Lower Mainland sorely lacked such a business and with his lifelong knowledge he could offer Steveston a fresh off the boat dining experience bar none.
Crab season is regulated to avoid over fishing, therefore the crustacean appears on the menu between late June through to the end of November when the business closes temporarily for the season (and reopens in early spring).
Only the most robust crabs meet Van’s strict quality control and the daily catch is stored in a live tank at the restaurant’s entrance. Van points out, “Crab does not taste the same if it has been frozen. I am an expert, and know the difference in taste as I have been eating it my entire life.”
The Crab King prepares this delicacy in a variety of ways, steamed and accompanied with a number of sauces including black bean, ginger, garlic butter or Thai chili. Corn, potatoes and coleslaw accompany the entrée. Crackers, bibs and baby forks are provided.
If you are not experienced at cracking open a crab don’t let this deter you from this delectable meal. Van and his staff are happy to offer tips to make you an expert in no time.
In addition to crab fresh from the shell, crab poutine is one of The Crab Kings’ most popular choices. Rounding out the menu are pasta dishes, pan-fried fish, fish and chips (again, the fish is fresh off the boat), calamari, crab cakes, salads and even a prime rib burger.
Van says, “Steveston is a very friendly and receptive community to run a business. I like working here. It has a small hometown feeling.”
It is personal connections that mean the most to him. He explains, “Every person I meet has a story to tell. Talking to people is knowledge. Through conversations you can learn so much – it is mesmerizing.”
When opening The Crab King his ultimate goal was to “put smiles on peoples’ faces.” Van believes, “People work so hard, some of them struggle, and the least I can do is give them a meal they will really enjoy.”
A peek at The Crab King’s Facebook page confirms that Van is indeed actively involved with his customers as he appears alongside them in many photographs. He enjoys the reward of serving people and assisting them as needed. If someone needs help walking up the ramp or opening a door, Van is there. He says, “It doesn’t cost me anything to offer this kindness – and it makes me feel good.”
At the end of a meal the most gratifying feedback Van likes to hear is, “That was delicious.” He concludes, “I like to see people happy, and food is one way of doing this.”
The Crab King
3540 Bayview St (floating)
Richmond BC V7E 5W3