PEr FYI

January 9, 2016

Somboon Seafood, Bangkok…fried curry crab is heaven on a plate

One of Bangkok’s utterly superb and most delicious restaurants, Somboon is a classy place with outstanding Thai seafood with Chinese influences. Some mighty fine exhilarating Thai flavors, excellent service, pleasant setting and the price is right.

So, what’s to love?

As a matter of fact, every dish is rich in flavour. Coconut, lemon grass, basil and chiles are employed to magical effect.

The innocuous-sounding, obsession-worthy fried curry crab (Pu Pad Pong Gari) , cooked in a fragrant medley of spices and aromatics is gloriously unique. It’s a curry that hums with the power of a jet turbine and the finesse of an Apple Watch, fueled by radioactive levels of heat and subtle layers of sweet, salty and sour that creep down the back of the throat…its spicy punch set off deliciously by the fat, sweet crab meat. It’s definitely not what you sometimes get at other crab restaurants. Next time I’m here, I also really want to try fried curry crab meat where the meat is separated from the bisected crab body.

More intricate is the steamed fresh water prawns with garlic. No section of the tongue was left unstimulated. The stir fried baby cabbage with crispy pork is a textural delight and one of the best I have ever had. This is one of my benchmark dishes for most Chinese restaurants.

Run, don’t walk to this critically praised and nationally recognized Thai seafood restaurant. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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November 14, 2015

Under Bridge Spicy Crab, Hong Kong…more a tourists’ stop than a local haunt

This isn’t a fancy restaurant – it’s very Chinese-y with red and gold in its décor.

As the name suggest, this crab specialist is  under a vehicle bridge. You have to order crab if you go to a restaurant with crab in its name, so we did – we got the spicy crab with chilli and garlic, and true to form, the bright red large-clawed crustaceans were buried under a generous mountain of dry mix of fried chilli and nice crunchy deep-fried garlic bits. This dish is believed to be originated from typhoon shelters which are shelters fishing boats during typhoons. I have to admit…for me, the deep fried minced garlic ends up being the star of the show rather than the crab.

I didn’t quite manage to enthuse over all the other dishes – they were just gastronomically illiterate and a little bit desperate. The service too was not the best.

It’s more a tourists’ stop than a local haunt. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

 

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March 15, 2015

Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, Jakarta…not worth the hype, reputation and money

For those of you not on the brink of marriage or buying a house, picking a celebrity chef restaurant is probably the most expensive decision you’ll make this week — and the gastronomic equivalent of an inflated “A” can lead you astray by hundreds of dollars.

A high-speed lift whizz you in seconds to the 46th floor. Wall-to-ceiling windows look on to a, as you might expect, stunning view– if you’re pointed in the right direction and, preferably, sitting at a window table.

Sydney crab omelette, enoki mushroom and herb salad, miso mustard broth is the signature dish. The sweetness of the strips of crab meat shone through the mild miso broth but I wished they could be more generous with the crab meat. The beautifully crispy, tender and delicious crumbed chicken makes a great combination of flavours with garlic mushrooms, coleslaw salad. The crispy pork belly, pickled green papaya salad and tamarind dressing shouldn’t be called that. There are two simple things necessary for crackling: a nice dry rind, and a good thick layer of fat underneath it. I’m an out-and-proud fat-fancier. The tender, melting wobble of it, that satisfying oily crunch – how can mere meat hope to compete? Here the crispy pork belly lacked in visual appeal and failed the “crunch test.” The signature dessert – liquorice parfait 2013 – was certainly unique but I will absolutely not order it again. Luke Mangan’s revolutionary reboot of the lamington – lamington sandwich, coconut ice cream, strawberry sauce – would be a better choice for dessert.

High ratings are often deserved, of course, and I’ve found plenty of haunts that can justify their hype but Salt Grill by Luke Mangan doesn’t measure up at all. It’s a fine place, yes, just that it is not worth the hype, reputation and money. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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salt grill jakarta2

salt grill jakarta

March 14, 2015

Crab in da bag, Singapore…No, this ain’t the place for restraint

When it comes to food, I suffer from multiple personality disorder. Sometimes, I crave refinement, creativity and some extravagance. And other times, I just want to pig out. When those urges get too strong, when I want the culinary equivalent of “dancing like nobody’s watching,” I can’t imagine a better way to set them free than to sit down and start cracking shells and stuffing face at Crab in da bag. It is crowded, messy and plenty fun.

Each table is covered with a large sheet of coated paper. The crab arrives in plastic bags…. set in the middle of the table sheathed in clear plastic loaded with the sauce of your choice. The best dish was definitely tiger prawns in garlic butter. Sri Lankan crab in caboodle mix – a combo of local and Cajun spices – is out of this world….they combined beautifully. The crab farci was delightfully delicious. The word farci, when used in the description of a dish, means to ‘stuff’ or to ‘pad out’ (from the Latin,farcire). The prawns are first cleaned out and then cooked in their shells, ensuring maximum flavour. The sweetness of the prawns complemented the garlic sauce perfectly. Whenever I need a prawn-fix, I know where to go. The squid in curry had a very intense and specific flavour.
If you don’t like eating with your hands, you should not even think about going there. No, this ain’t the place for restraint. It’s for anyone who speaks the international language of crab done right, and who wants to enjoy good seafood in a casual atmosphere. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

crab in da bag

December 31, 2014

Restoran Lee, Melaka…Obscenely Expensive

If you are feeling indulgent and just want to splurge (and sometimes, you’re on an unlimited expense account) or just want to dream about the places you’d eat if you won the lottery, Restoran Lee aka “Fei Li”(Fat Lee) is a great place to start. When budget is of no concern — and tolerance for rudeness and low ethics is high — then, only then, consider going to Restoran Lee. Let’s set the scene…

…….First turn off was that they told us the wait time for our food is an hour. But what they didn’t tell us was that they were still waiting for delivery of their crab supply for the night. The 4 customers on the table next to mine left at 7.30pm without having their crab after sitting there since 5.30pm…..

….Second turn off is the mediocre food. The rest of the food was “meh.”  The claypot tofu, lettuce, drunken prawns and sweet sour pork were nothing special really……

…..Third turn off was the unethical standards. You think that if they ran out of thick noodles for hokkien mee, they’ll inform you. HELL NO! They cook the hokkien mee with thin noodles (ee-mee) and expect you to eat it…..

…..Fourth turn off was the crabby/cranky wait staff and lady boss.  Seriously, did you realize you are in the service industry? After waiting for 1.5 hours, they served us black pepper crab and when told we ordered Carnation Crab (aka Milk crab), we waited for another 20 minutes and were served salted egg crab, which we rejected. The Carnation crab – when it finally landed – is not bad BUT not worth the RM250 price tag……

This place sucks… It REALLY sucks… I mean REALLY REALLY REALLY sucks. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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December 10, 2014

Coastal Flats, Washington DC…the best seafood is no longer relegated to the coastline

Coastal Flats specializes in American seafood fare. The tropical decor at the entrance – a colorful metal fish hanging from the ceiling above the hostess stand – reminded me of theme restaurants like Planet Hollywood and Rainforest Cafe but I was pleasantly surprised. Our waitress was friendly, cheery, engaging and knew her facts about the menu. The restaurant is located in Tyson’s Corner – my absolute fav mall in Washington DC.

It didn’t start well. The classic crab and corn chowder turned out to be “big time salt lick.” They over-seasoned with salt and it buried the expected sweetness of the corn. It was a seriously salty soup. Just avoid the salt shaker for the rest of the day. Grouper fingers – an arsenal of crisply fried fillets (all meat, no filler) in coastal flats lager beer battered tartar sauce, accompanied with shoestring fries and extra chunky home made coleslaw – was very fresh and true to its word, crispy, perfectly fried and generously portioned. I sometimes run out of adjectives to replace words like ”really good” and this is one of those times. Jumbo lump crab cake sauteed with fries and coleslaw were also amazingly crispy and flavorful.  Lord, lord, it was heaven in my mouth!! It was the second place so far for me where I got to eat really good crab cakes, the first being at Old Ebbit’s Grill.

The best seafood is no longer relegated to the coastline. Coastal Flats is an interesting experience – and you’ll be amply rewarded for taking the plunge. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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November 3, 2014

Fisherman’s Crab Deck, Maryland, USA…passable, nothing was overly special

An hour out from Washington DC, this restaurant is a good fix for crabs, although I personally feel it’s annoying to put that much effort into something you’re going to eat. The restaurant itself has a great atmosphere with live music and very open and on the water. It is not fancy.  It is very casual, laidback and loud.

The menu was extensive but generally the preparation was ‘middle-of-the-road’. As for the food it was okay. There isn’t much I can say about them. They have good Maryland crabs, smaller and harder to eat than the Sri Lankan ones I am used to in Singapore.

The experience was passable, nothing was overly special.  I would NEVER go here on my own dime but I can easily look the other way when someone else is footing the bill (LOL).This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

Crab deck

crab deck2

October 19, 2014

Middleton Tavern, Annapolis, Maryland…hot crab dip and Rockefeller oysters in one of the oldest restaurants in the US

Annapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Maryland. Middleton Tavern was established in 1750. Situated down the street from the Maryland State House, on the docks, it is one of the oldest restaurants in the US. The decor is random, including heads and bodies of hunted animals and old china.

The hot crab dip is a massive hit. The crab is the star of the show so good crab meat is CRUCIAL and they just need a little more of that. Rockefeller oysters are oysters topped with a mixture of finely chopped greens and copious amounts of butter and then baked in their shells. Historically it was considered so rich that it had to be named after the richest man of the day, John D. Rockefeller. The Rockefeller oysters here prove that cheese and seafood definitely go together.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were numbered among the prominent patrons of Middleton Tavern. I am now part of the galaxy of revered leaders who’d dined here. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

middleton tavern mussels

middleton tavern hot crab dip

middleton tavern annapolis

March 17, 2012

Joe’s Crab Shack, Los Angeles…crab may be their name, but crab didn’t seem to be their game.

This is a tough one to write, because my first visit about 10 years ago was unforgettable. This recent visit, was quite forgettable.

The ambience is a laid-back, roomy restaurant. Desiree, our waitress was friendly and service was good and quick. However, it is definitely overpriced for the quality of food you get.

We started with a classic sampler and had the steam Pot for 2 (a nice collection of seafood) as the main.  The crab was plain, lacking flavour, dry, not juicy and extra SALTY. Crab may be their name, but crab didn’t seem to be their game.

As soon as the song “Love shack” comes on, the servers put on a little dance thing in the middle of the restaurant…makes the dining experience that much cheesier and corny.

I wouldn’t return. Sorry Joe’s! This is the true truth and I say it as it is…

January 2, 2012

Harmonique, Bangkok…woooooooonderfully characterful, quaint setting (and the food is terrific too.)

 

This characterful, quaint, reasonably priced Thai eatery is kind like an open restaurant with some tables inside and some courtyard tables in the patio full of plants, bamboo sticks, water cascades and fountains; creating a feeling of tranquility.

The food here is terrific too – great traditional Thai food with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Try the crab curry…it’s just fantastic. The grilled prawns on hot plate was ultra delicious. We also had the steamed fish with lime sauce and asparagus stir fried with chinese mushroom – yum.

Prices are moderate but this place isn’t cheap, however it is excellent value for money.

There are lots of places in Thailand to get great thai food but Harmonique is one of the nicest restaurants I’ve been to in Bangkok. It’s that little bit more special. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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