Red king crab adds class to appetizer offerings

Yukon Gold Gnocchi, with Cambazola mornay, red king crab and pancetta, prepared by sous chef Michael Adlam, is a popular appetizer on the menu of Marx Brothers Café in Anchorage. Photo by Margaret Bauman/For The Cordova Times

Bristol Bay red king crab, in relatively short supply this winter, is a popular ingredient in a number of seafood appetizers being created by Alaska chefs for diners at some of the Anchorage area’s finer restaurants.

The succulent crab shows up at Simon & Seaforts Saloon and Grill in Anchorage in Alaskan Ceviche: a combination of king crab, halibut, sidestripe shrimp, avocado, lime juice, tequila and crispy tortilla chips.

In the cozy dining area of Marx Brothers Café, there’s Yukon Gold Gnocchi, with Cambazola mornay, red king crab and pancetta, while at the Kincaid Grill, the appetizer choices include king crab cakes with corn relish and serrano-lime aioli.

Tessa Sellars of 10th& M with some of the Bristol Bay red king crab legs and claws fresh from Dutch Harbor seafood processors. Photo by Margaret Bauman/For The Cordova Times

For those seeking a larger portion of the king crab caught in the wilds of the Bering Sea, Orso has an entree of red king crab legs with broccolini, house smoked salmon, stuffed tomato and drawn butter.

A few blocks away, diners at Simon and Seaforts have a choice of seared sea scallops with king crab risotta, mushroom confit, sweet pea puree, preserved lemon and scallop butter sauce, or the alternative Norton Sound red king crab, with herb parmesan mashed potatoes, melted butter and blistered lemon.

Patrons of the Seven Glaciers restaurant at the Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood may choose from the appetizer menu the crab cake, scallops, spicy remoulade and seasonal salad.

Appetizer selections tend to run about $18 and entrees about $70.

With the commercial quota for Bristol Bay red king crab at 4.3 million pounds this year, the lowest since 1985, the succulent shellfish meat is at a premium price and some restaurants are opting for less expensive ingredients. Last year the quota was 6.6 million pounds and in 2016 it was 8.4 million pounds. Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game determine the guideline harvest level based on a formula to assure sustainability of the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery, which like other shellfish fisheries is threatened by increasing ocean acidification.

The impact of ocean acidification on shellfish is being studied by fisheries biologists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, who are trying to determine if crab will have enough time to adapt to increasing ocean acidification, which threatens their ability to form shells.