This Week's Cafe Review: Reconsider the Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood

Categories: On the Menu

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
A lobster, treated with care and respect, leads a fine life.
When I first read David Foster Wallace's now famous story on the Maine Lobster Festival, which was published in Gourmet in 2004, I pretty much gave up on eating lobster. The brilliant article (you really must read it), entitled "Consider the Lobster," made many people, myself included, take a moment to genuinely consider, or reconsider, that delicious crustacean.

The crux of Wallace's article appears on page three in the online version. In it, he posits a few questions that still flash through my mind every time I eat lobster:

So then here is a question that's all but unavoidable at the World's Largest Lobster Cooker, and may arise in kitchens across the U.S.: Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure? A related set of concerns: Is the previous question irksomely PC or sentimental? What does "all right" even mean in this context? Is it all just a matter of individual choice?

Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant, the subject of this week's cafe review, helped me come to terms with these concerns in a few ways.

First of all, the lobster at Hai Cang is so good that part of me doesn't really care how it comes to be on my plate. It's somewhat like the attitude of the French (and, honestly, most people I know) when it comes to foie gras: It tastes really good, so I'm just going to look past whatever had to happen for it to get from point A to my plate.

Secondly, the lobsters at Hai Cang seem ... happy. I realize that having concern about the mental health of my food is a bit crazy, but yeah, I admit it, it's something I think about. You know that slogan for the Laughing Cow cheese company? "Great cheese comes from happy cows." I believe that. The bleeding-heart animal lover inside me is also comforted by the thought that my dinner lived a pleasant life (or at least one as devoid of pain as possible) before I ate it.

But back to Hai Cang. At the front of the restaurant are several large tanks illuminated by neon-blue lights and swarming with seafood. There aren't any castles or fake seaweed in them such as you might find in an aquarium designed for pet fish. Only water. The fish swim back and forth languidly in their tanks, but for some reason, the lobsters are electric with energy. They crawl back and forth on top of each other and swim the length of the tank in wide circles. They're constantly moving. They don't seem sickly or act as if they've given up now that they've been moved from their ocean homes.

I couldn't say for certain what a lobster endures, so I wonder. And I'm comforted by the fact that at Hai Cang the lobsters seem happy and that they're treated with the utmost respect on each plate. Because really, there's no better way to show that you've considered the lobster than to prepare it as simply and wonderfully as possible. And Hai Cang has that down to an art.

Location Info

Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant

11768 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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If you're impressed with the lobster at Hai Cang (and who's not?) behold the diing room aquariums at Fung's Kitchen. In addition to lobsters of every size, you'll find tiny shrimp, Alaska King, Snow and Dungeness Crab, sea urchin, turbot and other fish....the place is a cornucopia of watery friends to observe...and eat!

KaitlinS topcommenter

@feagan34 I haven't been to Fung's yet, but it's totally on my list! Is it weird that I like eating seafood surrounded by aquariums? I feel like that says something bad about me...

erichenao topcommenter

@feagan34 Agreed. But I must give kudos to Kaitlin for pointing out to me a NEW place to be, where as, Fung's is kinda old hat. A very good old hat, none the less… Here's to eating with abandon!


@erichenao @feagan34 

If you think Fung's is 'old hat' that says more about your limitations than theirs. They have a giant menu, lots of new specials every month and the variety of critters in their aquariums is changing at least seasonally if not more often. But of course I'm happy to learn of another place.


@KildareM @KaitlinS @feagan34 By the way, did you know that lobsters feel no pain when boil or fry?  Lobsters also live forever and never aged.  Wonder if eating them would keep us stay young forever :)

erichenao topcommenter

@KildareM Ah. By old hat i didn't mean that, they aren't worth revisiting. My personal preference is to always find new places. Fung's has been around quite a while, that is what I mean by old hat. By no means do I mean that they aren't any good. They are one of the premiere restaurants in Houston without a doubt. I simply enjoy visiting other places for variety.

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