Jenny Wu and her husband Jin Huang opened JJ Crab House in October. They previously owned Naked Burrito at the same location, hoping to attract local students with their take on the bowl fad, but closed it last spring when the pandemic began and their chef left.
If Wu’s name is familiar, it’s because she’s been around awhile. In 1993, when still a U-M student, she joined her mother, Bing-hua Tsou, to open Lucky Kitchen in the Courtyard Shops. Tsou, a piano teacher, later turned the restaurant over to her. “She didn’t like the stress,” Wu says.
A second Lucky Kitchen, on East University, was replaced by one of the South U area’s now-ubiquitous student high-rises. She also ran Passport on S. State for a few years in the early 2010s (much modified, that onetime Chi-Chi’s is now Black Rock Bar & Grill), and she and Huang own Sapporo Hibachi Steakhouse & Sushi in Livonia, and Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Lounge in Novi.
Always a seafood lover, Wu was inspired to offer spicy seafood when she tasted it in New Orleans, where boiled seafood is ubiquitous. “Asian people love seafood, and I know Americans love seafood. The Red Lobster is always busy down the street,” Wu says, laughing.
JJ’s menu is divided between cooked seafood such as crab, shrimp, and mussels, featuring combinations of Cajun and Asian spices, as well as grilled hibachi dishes, such as shrimp, chicken, and vegetables. Wu has a chef in charge of each type of cuisine.
They’ll be able to seat forty people once pandemic restrictions are lifted, and Wu hopes there might be outdoor seating once weather warms up.
She doesn’t feel trepidation about opening in a pandemic. “My ambition is always to start businesses up,” Wu says. “It doesn’t matter what era, or what condition the economy is in. People are always looking for places to go to eat.”
JJ Crab House, 2871 Carpenter, (734) 222-1111, Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. noon-10 p.m. jjcrabhouse.com