Every Meal Is a Feast at Hai Cang Seafood

Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant gives diners the royal treatment.

Get a look inside Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant with our photo gallery.

From the outside, Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant resembles any other Chinese restaurant in any other run-down strip center on Bellaire. Boxy, windowless, heralded by a large neon sign in English and Chinese characters. Outwardly, there's nothing to entice diners to eat there instead of the hundreds of other Chinese restaurants lining either side of the boulevard.

But walk inside, and you're immediately greeted by ropes of kinetic LED lights encircling mirrored outlines of fish and crabs, a backlit window-size image of the Hong Kong skyline, metal ceiling panels that appear to have been stolen from a Vegas lounge in 1996, and seafood so fresh you can look your live dinner in the eye only minutes before it ends up on your plate.

One minute a lobster is crawling around a flashy tank, the next it's buttered, breaded, fried and served up steaming hot with a side of rice.
Troy Fields
One minute a lobster is crawling around a flashy tank, the next it's buttered, breaded, fried and served up steaming hot with a side of rice.

Location Info


Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant

11768 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX 77072

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Outer Loop - SW


Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Eggplant with spicy sauce: $4.95
Sautéed salad with Malaysian: sauce $8.95
Walnut shrimp: $5.95
Stir-fried flat noodle with beef: $6.95
Crab over fried rice: $28.95
Hunan-style crispy fish: $7.95
Lobster with butter and black pepper: $18.99 for two
Crab with black bean sauce: $26.95
Steamed tilapia with ginger and scallions: $16.99
Sizzling beef: $9.95

See Also:

Slideshow: A Closer Look at Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant
Blog: Reconsider the Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood

I'll admit I was skeptical about the place when my friend first suggested it to me. Strip-center seafood is not something I generally seek out, but being a trusting sort, I decided to give Hai Cang a try. I needn't have worried: The chefs here know their way around a lobster and a crab and even the oft-misunderstood geoduck.

The simply prepared but elegant food delivered on family-style platters to my table at Hai Cang impressed because it was prepared with such respect for the ingredients and was unbelievably inexpensive. Two lobsters, rolled in butter and black pepper, then sprinkled with flour, lightly fried, and chopped into manageable pieces so they can be easily cracked, mined, squeezed and sucked, set a table back a mere $18.99. At lunch, a whole fried fish with a divine spicy hoisin sauce appears on the check for only $8, even though the fish, along with some sides, can easily feed two. Even the non-seafood dishes such as sautéed "salad" (not bok choy but something similar) with peppery Malaysian sauce and sizzling beef — no doubt packed full of MSG — make for hearty and delicious meals.

I did start to feel a little concerned on my first visit as I found myself growing increasingly excited about the prospect of watching my food swimming happily around in the bright-blue tanks at the front of the restaurant, then having it delivered, steaming, to my table within a matter of minutes. Is it proper to get so excited at the thought of my lobster being thrown into a pot of boiling water?

These thoughts were short-lived, though, because as soon as I started digging into the massive red claws and tightly curled pink prawns, all thoughts of propriety and the poor little crustaceans went out the window. My hands and mouth were covered in buttery, peppery sauce; there were napkins on my lap and tucked haphazardly into my shirt; and I grabbed for more lobster, more crab, more flaky white fish, as if this were the last time I'd ever taste such sweet meat.

When you eat at Hai Cang, you eat. Though it's a popular spot for quick, casual lunches and celebratory repasts alike, every meal, no matter the time of day or occasion, somehow turns into a feast. Perhaps it's the helpful, professional waitstaff or the fact that everything is served on ornately glazed platters. Perhaps it's the diverse ten-page menu, a list that would require five or six visits before one even dented it. Perhaps — and most likely — it's the generous portions of impossibly fresh seafood swimming happily around a tank one minute and sitting inside your stomach the next.

Hai Cang is almost always packed with families celebrating birthdays or enjoying a night out, and no one seems to mind much when a child taps (or bangs) on the tilapia tank or runs crazily in circles around the elderly couple enjoying a soft-shell crab. It's a family kind of place, and the large, round tables — complete with giant lazy Susans — and deep, accommodating booths reflect that.

 Though it's been open only since March, Hai Cang has already become the Chuck E. Cheese's for cultured Asian children and their first-generation parents, who are pleased that they don't have to eat rubbery pizza to amuse the youngsters. The kids (and I) are mesmerized by the tanks of live seafood and flashing neon lights, and the parents are satisfied by the impeccably prepared Chinese cuisine delivered from the bustling kitchen by saintly waiters.

In the spirit of inclusiveness, the menu is printed in English, Vietnamese and Chinese, and though each table is set with chopsticks, the waiters without fail ask if one would prefer Western cutlery. They even direct that question to Asian diners, so as not to appear doubtful of anyone's chopstick capabilities. Little touches such as that are appreciated by Chinatown newbies.

I ended up using neither silverware nor chopsticks for most of my meal, since neither approach lends itself particularly well to cracking open juicy crab claws and fishing out the meat. Dining at Hai Cang is a messy, hands-on experience, and the food certainly tastes better for it. There's something very satisfying about diving into a platter of steamed fish, picking the flaky meat off the fragile bones with your hands and licking your fingers to ensure every last drop of salty, briny juice is savored.

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My Voice Nation Help
del.martinis topcommenter

We used a Groupon last week and had an OK meal, but nothing like the dishes you're describing.  Might have to try it out again and hit the seafood more!

gossamersixteen topcommenter

Nice one; mouth is salivating at the thought..

Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

@del.martinis Seafood is the way to go. The $18.99 for two lobster with butter black pepper and the live tilapia (steamed) for $16.99 is always a home run. The $8 fried fish is also awesome -- for $8! They have expensive stuff too -- I once paid $86 for a whole freshwater fish --- and they have live prawns and sometimes live king crab (in the range of $400-$500 for gourmet splurges -- but the lower priced seafood is solid.

del.martinis topcommenter

@Mai Pham @del.martinis Mai, we weren't going to return until we saw this review.  I love, love love lobster so when we do go back, that's the dish we'll try. Maybe we'll see you there...

del.martinis topcommenter

@Mai Pham @del.martinis Absolutely and hope to see you!  I really want that lobster now!  Also next on my list, speaking of lobster, is the lobster roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

@del.martinis I've been eating there at least every other week for a few months now. Usually I get some type of steamed fish - so healthy and fresh -- but almost every table orders the lobster because it's a steal of a deal. If you do see me and my fish, do come by and say hi!