If you’ve been paying attention to the “grand opening” banners that festoon Long Island’s thoroughfares, you’ve been seeing a lot of restaurants name-checking “crab,” “Cajun” and combinations of the two. Mighty Catch Cajun Seafood & Bar, which opened this week in Oceanside, is the latest.
Like its brethren, Mighty Catch specializes in shellfish boiled in a plastic bag with the diner’s choice of seasoning. (Many of the restaurants serve the shellfish in a bag; Mighty Catch arranges it prettily in a bowl.) You can design your own bag from a list of crustaceans and mollusks: clams and mussels are $15 / pound; shrimp (head on or headless) go for $16; snow crab legs are $25; king crab legs are $42; a 1½-pound lobster or Dungeness crab is $32; four blue crabs are $18. Or go for one of the combos such as the Mighty Catch feast: one pound of snow crab legs, a half pound each of shrimp, crawfish and clams, andouille sausage, corn and potatoes, $55.
There are also seafood-centric starters (fried calamari, oysters rémoulade, lobster roll, clam chowder, lobster bisque, gumbo), fried seafood baskets, a raw bar and a few outlying mains ($17 to $32) such as grilled salmon with Brussels sprouts and rice, rib-eye steak with fries, shrimp and chicken Alfredo.
The restaurant takes over Wayne French Kitchen, which opened early in 2018 and closed in July. For this excursion into Cajun country, Wayne’s chef-owner, Wen Chen, partnered with an old friend, Tom Lau.
Lau and Chen met more than two decades ago when both were working at the venerable and much-imitated Manhattan brasserie, Balthazar. Chen stuck with the French food; Lau moved to Tennessee and then to Philadelphia, opening Asian restaurants and, recently, a barbecue place, Brother’s Smokehouse. He is also involved in a number of franchise operations: Blaze Pizza and Halal Guys in upstate New York, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels in Brooklyn.
Lau said that the Cajun seafood concept was “the next big thing” for Chinese-American restaurateurs. “First there was Chinese buffet,” he said, “then a lot of people opened Japanese restaurants, then Asian fusion, now Cajun seafood.”
The phrase “Cajun seafood” doesn’t really capture the cooking style of these places. Menus may feature the odd gumbo or po’boy (as Mighty Catch’s does) but it's unlikely that the folks at Commander’s Palace or Acme Oyster House would recognize these restaurants as any kind of culinary kin.
Cajun seafood restaurants that have recently opened on Long Island, or are about to do so, include Hook & Reel in Hicksville, S & D Crab House in Great Neck, Ben’s Crab in Hempstead, Cajun Claws in Patchogue, Cajun Bucket in West Hempstead, Red Crab in Rockville Centre, Voodoo Crab Cajun Boil & Fresh Seafood in both Rockville Centre and Massapequa, and Cajun Crab Shack in Floral Park.
Mighty Catch is at 2757 Long Beach Rd., Oceanside, 516-806-2188, mightycatch.com.