Metro Society Dining: Cangrejos Locos
The first Cangrejos Locos, located at Alabang’s Molito, has impressive price points that should make crabs and paella a hit among diners in the South
FORGET THE TRADITIONAL and pejorative meaning for the phrase “crab mentality.” If the owners of Cangrejos Locos, literally translated as “crazy crabs,” would have their way, “crab mentality” would literally describe the affection of diners for crabs and paella, the “next big thing” of the Metro Manila dining scene. The very first Cangrejos Locos just opened its doors in Molito, Alabang, and early patrons can’t seem to have enough of the delicious fare and crazy affordable prices that this eatery offers.
A brainchild of chefs Robby Goco and Manny Torrejon, and restaurateur Raymund Magdaluyo, Cangrejos Locos is a fresh, inviting concept of a Spanish restaurant that emphasizes being casual, chill, and beach-inspired, while still dishing out genuine, high-quality Spanish cuisine, and highlighting crabs and paellas. For an unbelievable price a shade under P400, one can indulge in their signature dish, crab paella.
And mind you, the Cangrejos Locos paella is stuffed with seafood that includes red lapu-lapu morsels. You can’t get more premium than that, and it’s at a price that would be hard to beat. As Goco says in half-jest, Cangrejos Locos is about making “lamon” with inspired quality dishes that won’t create a hole in your wallet or purse.
Torrejon chimes in that it’s carbs galore; and for a Filipino clientele, that’s a welcome observation. The overcooked rice we find at the bottom of the paellera, the tutong, is a regular feature of the paellas at Cangrejos Locos; and I, for one, was overjoyed to hear this. The “tutong” has always been my favorite in any paella worth its weight, and it’s great to hear a restaurant recognize this. In Spanish, this is called the socarrat; so make sure to let the servers know this is how you like your paella.
There are a variety of crab dishes; and the one I would readily recommend would be the roasted garlic crab with angulas. I loved how they incorporated the baby eels into their crab specialty; and it’s one unbelievable bite after another. For some diners, crab has often been a question of effort versus reward, and here’s a little secret: at Cangrejos Locos, one can ask for the crab to be cracked and brought shredded to the table. That was music to my ears.
Goco spoke about how working with the restaurant group of Magdaluyo was so much fun, how the latter is the original “source-erer”—thanks to his chain of eateries, Magdaluyo has the best seafood sources, and, because of the volume he represents, acquires them at the best prices. This has proven essential in offering dishes with very attractive pricing. A true magician in food management, Magdaluyo’s contribution to the food enterprise has been nothing short of miraculous.
Don’t think for one moment that the restaurant is a one-trick pony. The menu is, in fact, an extensive one, and Goco told me new menu items are being developed. The fideua negra is a must-try, as it’s a variation on the usual seafood paella, this time using hollow noodles instead of rice. and if you want a happy kick of nostalgia, order the tortilla de patata.
Their salpicao has delectable tenderloin chunks marinated with an added ingredient Goco refused to identify; but I can say it was salpicao unique to Cangrejos Locos— and that’s great news, as eateries should be able to serve dishes with familiarity but prepared in a way that keeps you coming back. The costillas de cerdo are pork ribs that actually came in a manner that allowed one to really enjoy the quality of the pork, as it wasn’t too heavy on the marinade or saucing. And traditional dishes such as fabada and callos are on the menu.
For dessert, the crema Catalana and the churros should be immediate favorites. and the drinking crowd should try the varieties of sangria—there are purple, white, and red sangria.
The food concept behind Cangrejos Locos is loud and clear. A lot of us grew up with Spanish cuisine being part of our range of comfort foods. But a lot of the Spanish restaurants that dot our cityscape are too formal or stuffy. Plus, in the process of elevating the cuisine, prices have become prohibitive. Cangrejos Locos wants to shatter that image—comfort food, no matter what cuisine, should be served in an informal setting, and it shouldn’t be so pricey that it becomes something one indulges in only on special occasions.
The new crab mentality that Cangrejos Locos represents is out to play by its own rules, and the other Spanish restaurants will have to take notice of this game-changer. They aren’t loco for nothing!