Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Hell's Kitchen, for snow crab and flan in an under-the-sea fantasy land.


It's not easy to stand out on this stretch of Ninth Avenue in Hell's Kitchen, the half-mile or so that serves as the neighborhood's commercial heart and features a nearly non-stop procession of mid-range restaurants. So definite kudos to the designers of the new Aqua Boil, a "Cajun Seafood House" tucked between a pair of barber shops, for making its presence felt.

There's a big neon sign above the doorway, and palm trees decked out in twinkling lights, and a regal Poseidon, bathed in shimmering purple light, presiding over the ATM area. And that's just what you can easily see from the street! Enter Aqua Boil and you'll dine in an undersea wonderland, a borderline theme park of a room with sexy mermen, a collection of cliche nautical items (oars, netting, anchors), and a giant octopus on the main wall.

There's seating for about 40 at various tables and banquettes, and a semi-enclosed bar and server station breaks up the layout of the room. Service is efficient and friendly, and the music last Thursday evening was all poppy Christmas songs.

Truly, there are many sexy mermen here.

Scott Lynch / Gothamist


Although Aqua Boil is run by the same owners as THEP on the Upper East Side, and V(IV) a couple of blocks down, there aren't Thai dishes or even flavors on the menu here. Instead, we have a variety of shellfish and crustaceans, boiled and sold by the pound, served in a plastic bag and drowning in sauce. The motto at Aqua Boil is "Let's Get Messy" and you (or, more precisely, your gloves), definitely will do that.

My companion and I slammed through a pound of Crawfish and a pound of Snow Crab Leg, the former sodden with Cajun Sauce and set to "spicy" (it was, but not uncomfortably so), the latter drenched in Lemon Pepper Sauce and "medium" as requested, which was pretty tame. The Crawfish tails were fresh and springy, the Snow Crab meat sweet and soft, but honestly everything was kind of overwhelmed by the sauce. If there's a next time for me at Aqua Boil, I'm getting everything prepared "Dry."

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

There are a number of starters here as well. The Clam Chowder, done up all thick and creamy New England style, was first rate, though I wish there had been more of it. Also great were the crisp and chewy Cajun Fries that came with the dry and flavorless fried Popcorn Chicken. The only side we tried was the Andouille Sausage, which arrived covered in more sauce...

Unexpectedly, for a restaurant with a Thai pedigree and Cajun ambitions, the true highlight of the meal was the Creamy Caramel Flan. I order this dessert whenever it's offered, and the Aqua Boil version was probably the best I've had all year.

One final note: all of the food here is served in disposable containers, even when you're dining in, which is a distressingly thoughtless approach in our era of choked landfills and oceans thick with plastic.


Aqua Boil has the potential to be a fun option, especially for Hell's Kitchen locals. But if you're interested in sharing a bag of shellfish or two—and, really, it's kind of the point—maybe get the sauce on the side.

Aqua Boil is located at 750 9th Avenue, between 50th and 51st Streets, and is open Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. until 10:15 p.m, and Fridays from 5 until 11:15, on Saturdays from 1 p.m. until 11:15 p.m., and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.. CASH ONLY, the on-premises ATM will cost you $2.50 (212-464-7428; aquaboilnyc.com)