Soft-shell crabs started crawling onto menus last month, and we’re now heading into peak season for the delicate crustaceans. A favorite summertime delicacy, these blue crabs, most commonly found in Maryland, the Carolinas and Louisiana, are plucked from the water just as they shed their hard shells and begin to form new ones. Eaten while still in the molting process, there’s no need for mallets, crackers and picks. Just bite right through the crunchy exterior.
Chef Chris Cheung, a native of Chinatown, says he grew up with soft shell crabs his whole life, which explains his deft touch. Cheung’s plump, meaty crabs ($27), are coated in panko, garlic and shallots, and then fried until the crust becomes extra crispy. Baby artichokes, drizzled with lemon, butter and herbs and tucked at the bottom of the terracotta bowl, provide a soothing bed. Slivers of ginger, cilantro and scallion encourage the flavors to pop, while sneaking in chef Cheung’s signature, subtle Asian influence.
Cheung, an alum of Jean-Georges, Nobu and Monkey Bar, uses the restaurant’s namesake to fire up his kitchen smoker and give a distinct flavor to house-baked breads, seafood and meats such as slow-cooked roasted lamb shoulder ($25). Cherrywood’s interior is crimson-colored, with shaded, wrought-iron chandeliers and a cozy bar area in front. The clientele, refugees from local ad agencies and publishing houses, seem especially thankful for a new addition to the sparse SoHo/Hudson Square dining scene.
300 Spring St.