The Captain's Boil (Yonge and Finch)
The Captain's Boil is not some embarrassing foot ailment for the nautically inclined, but rather, an Asian-Cajun seafood restaurant in Toronto. There are two locations - North York and College Street - with similar decor that features banquettes, twine ropes dangling from the ceiling and rolls of paper towels as sanitary centerpieces on each table.
Dining here requires plastic tie-up bibs; some sporting a sailor stripe motif, others pirate style with drawn on super deep V necks. You will get wet on this ride.
The menu is a DIY smorgasbord of fishy finds. First, you choose your bait: whole lobster, crawfish, Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, mussels, snow crab, king crab...there's a wide selection of crustaceans, and if you're not into shellfish then flip the menu over for more landlubbers picks like sausages or chicken wings.
After choosing your protein, you select a sauce - Cajun Cajun, Lemon Pepper, Garlic sauce or Captain's Boil (a blend of them all). Expect the usual peppery garlic flavours for the Captain's Boil, here enhanced with a secret blend of Asian spices and aromatics like ginger and lemon grass. Finally, you set your heat - no spice, mild, medium or fire.
Not feeling up to cracking skulls, Mussels ($10.95 per lb) seem like a natural choice. While the restaurant is tight lipped on where they source them from they're the most massive mussels I've ever seen. Toting your bib won't protect you; don the plastic gloves they give you, there is no cutlery available.
Each meal comes in a boil-a-bag portion, not fancy sous-vide, here they place the just boiled fish into a pre-sauced bag and toss. The medium spiced 'Captain's Boil' mussels are fiery and hefty, and after you adjust to eating with your hands off a paper tablecloth out of a plastic bag you realize that on a tiny table like this, a plate would just get in the way.
Garlicky Clams ($12.95) are equally as rewarding. Also medium spiced, the clams don't carry the same heat as the mussels but that's likely a good thing. The diced garlic coats the clams, sneaking into every orifice, another reminder of why the gloves are an absolute necessity.
Seafood Fried Rice ($10.95) thankfully arrives on a plate, with Styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons to save you from eating like a complete barnyard animal. Dotted with green onions, corn and peas, the rice is fluffy and slightly spicy, with mini shrimp and scallops scattered throughout.
A paltry half ear of corn ($1) in a bag provided some buttery (and much needed) roughage.
Washing it all down with a beer is a good call - Coors Light, Canadian, Rickards Red, Sapporo and Heineken are in rotation, and Soju and Rice Wine pack a punch. Cans of Nestle Iced Tea ($2.50) are also available and servers are quick to top up plastic cups of water.
Servers are generally brisk and efficient. Already notorious for long queues, the service is rumoured to slack slightly when dealing with a backlog, a natural side effect at any popular restaurant. Both locations offer reservations, but the rules vary depending on time of day and number in the party.
While the whole experience has me nostalgic for the boil-in-a bag meals I enjoyed over campfire, the novelty of eating fish from a bag wears off after seeing servers reset tables in a blink of any eye. Almost everything is disposable here; the eco-guilt is swift. The food is on-point though, so maybe save this one for a special night out with your mateys.
Photos and words by Libby Roach .