Majestic Bay Seafood Restaurant @ Gardens By The Bay – Birth of the Kopi Crab

16 11 2012

While Gardens by the Bay is considered a national attraction, there’s now another reason to visit; the birth of the kopi crab. 10 years down the road, would it become an embodiment of Singapore cuisine, where the chili and black pepper crab now stand? I was about to find out.

Helmed by Chef Yong Bing Ngen, who also runs fine dining restaurants Jing @ One Fullerton and Majestic Restaurant @ New Majestic Hotel, Majestic Bay Seafood Restaurant is the humblest of the three. Do not mistake it for a typical seafood restaurant you would find at East Coast Park though, as the experience I had here was definitely more up-market, as evident from the ambience. The tables are spaced well apart and you will never have to strain your voices just to be heard.

As with most Chinese Seafood restaurants in Singapore, the menu is extremely extensive, though the signatures do revolve around Seafood. The cuisine style is interesting because there’s a mix of the usual tried and tested fare, with avant garde dishes for the more adventurous.

Our Soup of the Day ($18++/small) was a homely Turnip soup with pork ribs. No doubt it had been simmered for a long time, given the sweet flavourful stock.

One of the deterrents to ordering steamed live prawns is the hassle of having to deshell them yourself. Of course, that’s not the only reason why I loved the Steamed live prawns (Market price: ~$70 per kg) here, which were skilfully sliced through the middle for easier access to the springy fresh without the need to dirty your hands. I enjoyed how the minced garlic was not too pungent, doing well to complement the delicately sweet prawns.

The highlight of the night was the Live crabs in Bay’s signature “Kopi” sauce (Market price: ~$56 per kg). From what I understand, Majestic Bay is the only restaurant that currently offers kopi crab, which was conceptualized as a result of Chef Yong’s love for coffee. 3 types of coffee beans; Arabica, Brazilian and White are used to produce an optimal aromatic flavour that engulfs the entire restaurant whenever this dish is brought out from the kitchen. To best describe that aroma, it would be Garrett’s Caramel Popcorn! As a finishing touch, a shot of coffee liquor is doused on the crab and ignited, releasing even more aromatics. Apple Jam and butter are also used to thicken and balance out the flavour of the sauce, so that the bitter taste of coffee isn’t too overwhelming. The result is surprisingly positive and such novelty is worth a try. That said, my preference still gravitates toward a decent butter crab or salted egg crab.

We also had the Sautéed Wild Mushrooms with Asparagus and Minced Garlic ($18++/small).

The Baked Rice and Assorted Seafood in Chef’s Recipe Sauce ($68++/small) was my favourite dish of the meal. It was a play on Macau’s Portuguese Baked Rice, albeit a more extravagant version. It reminded me much of a Spanish Paella fused with Japanese Curry, adorned with baby abalone, scallops, mussels, live prawns, squid and potatoes. The rice was extra fragrant as it was fried before the baking process. I usually don’t help myself to seconds but I made an exception this time. In fact, everyone at the table did. I was just super thankful that the portion size is really generous, easily satisfying the 6 of us.

We ended off with the Sweet’s Temptation ($20++), a dessert platter for 4 comprising Black Glutinous Rice Balls rolled in Coconut & stuffed with Yam Paste, Mochi stuffed with Cream, Strawberry & Mango, Deep Fried Red Bean Pancakes and Salted Egg Custard Buns. Personally, I was not impressed. The Black Glutinous Rice Balls was filled with an utterly dense yam paste, which I found much too heavy as a dessert. The Mochi was decent. The Red Bean Pancake was my favourite of the lot, with just the right amount of filling for the filo pastry used. While I am a fan of Salted Egg Custard Buns, the ones here are much too stingy on the custard filling and you won’t get to that climatic moment where all the custard oozes out when you make your first tear into the bun.

Overall, I was pleased with the entire experience and would definitely consider a revisit, especially given the food quality and reasonable prices. There’s a dim sum menu available for lunch as well, which features a Chili Crab Man Tou that I have been hearing good things about, where the crab meat and chili sauce is stuffed into the bun. Say nay to dirty hands!

Special thanks to Janice and FoodNews for hosting this dinner tasting!

Majestic Bay Seafood Restaurant

18 Marina Gardens Drive, #01-10 Garden’s By The Bay (Flower Dome)

Tel: +65 6604 6604

Two Fat Men – Not your Everyday Neighbourhood Pub

9 11 2012

Pub food rarely has to be good. After all, they are served to customers who probably won’t remember a thing by the next day. That’s why I find Two Fat Men an interesting discovery. It operates along a similar concept as Bar Bar Black Sheep, offering excellent Thai and Western food at an affordable price point. Another plus point is that they have my favourite beer, the very light and fruity tasting Kronenbourg Blanc on tap at $6.50/$12 for half or full pint!

It was pretty quiet when I visited last weekend, probably because of the light drizzle. For that I’m thankful as well, as we hardly waited 5 minutes before our first dish arrived.

The Grilled Pork Neck with Tamarind Spicy Sauce ($9.90++) is a signature dish here and comes highly recommended. Interlaced with sufficient fat, the texture of the pork is kept moist and tender even upon grilling. I love the dipping sauce too, which isn’t exactly spicy but still leaves a tongue numbing effect from the tinge of sourness present. The sourness and spice also helps to moderate the unctuousness. Definitely a great accompaniment for booze!

Perhaps one of the most underrated burgers around is Two Fat Men’s rendition of a classic beef burger aka Plain Joe ($8.20++). Retaining a slight pink hue, this beef patty was definitely far better than the dry ones from our favourite fast food chains. It was tasty and had just enough bite, not too rubbery from overcooking nor too soft from the liberal use of fats in making the patty.

I harboured ambivalent feelings towards the Fish & Chips ($8.50++). On one hand, it was a joy to eat while still piping hot but I did detect the taste of raw flour in some areas where the batter was thicker.

Don’t expect too much from the ambience though, as it’s really just a neighbourhood pub perfect for catching up with your mates and making a ruckus.

Two Fat Men

376 East Coast Road

Tel: +65 6346 0046

Cafe Melba – Of Green Meadows and Blow-up Castles

4 11 2012

Easterners have been lamenting over the lack of brunch places in the East for the longest time, at least I have. Recently however, I chanced upon this laid back Australian brunch place at Goodman Arts Centre near Mountbatten MRT. I’m surprised there’s not much online coverage about it yet, especially since it gets pretty packed with expats during the weekends. I guess word of mouth travels fast.

Facing a field of green, it makes for a perfect setting for a weekend brunch. The cafe seems to be both pet and children friendly, as I saw dogs playing in the field which I assume to be pets of the customers, and a blow up castle entertains the kids as they bounce up and down on it.

The menu features brunch items, appetizers, mains, sides and a variety of pizzas.

Considering that this is an Australian eatery, some items on the menu seem out of place, such as the Melba Beef Rendang ($18++). Cooked in Coconut Milk, Ginger and Spices, I found the Rendang to be very ordinary and a little too spicy. Instead of rice, you get pizza bread to complement the rendang, a little bit of east meets west. As rendangs of such quality can easily be sought after in most nasi padang stalls, I wouldn’t recommend it here. The best thing was probably the shoestring fries which comes freshly fried alongside the dish.

The Full Melba Cooked Breakfast ($24++) comes with a choice of Eggs (Scrambled, Poached or Sunny Side Up), Pork Sausages, Cured Bacon, Roasted Cherry Vine Tomatoes, Baked Beans, Mushrooms and Home-made Toast. It sounds heavier than it really is and personally, an extra side of sauteed potatoes would have completed this breakfast platter.

The Free-range Eggs Benedict ($18++) arrived with 2 puny kampong chicken eggs that had been slightly overpoached. The Hollandaise sauce wasn’t as creamy nor flavourful as I would have liked either.

If you are really hungry, the Melba Burger ($23++) is something to consider. The burger is made with home-made Relish, Cured Bacon, Cheese and a choice of Shoe-string fries, Salad or Wedges. I thought this was done competently but the beef patty could have done with a little more flavour. Wedges were really awesome though.

I enjoyed the thin-crusted Smoked Salmon Pizza ($18++ for 9 inches), which comes topped with Capers, Dill and Creme Fraiche aka sour cream. I would recommend the Truffle Fries ($13++) as it was good enough to warrant getting it again on my second visit here. I usually shun the truffle flavour by the 20th fry as truffle oil can get a bit overwhelming but the ones here are just unbelievably addictive. By the way, I hope you don’t feel cheated discovering that most truffle oils are not made using real truffles but simply a synthesis of a chemical compound (that smells like truffle) with olive oil.

Overall, the food at Cafe Melba is nothing to shout about and slightly overpriced, given the small serving portions. The main draw therefore, would be the laid back vibes that can make your weekend a truly lazy one.

PS: There’s one other restaurant housed within Goodman Arts Centre called La Barca, which does Tuscan cuisine and is helmed by an ex-Michelin Starred chef. Been wanting to visit but online reviews have been giving me second thoughts.

Cafe Melba

90 Goodman Road, #01-56 Goodman Arts Centre Block N

Tel: +65 6440 6068

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