Many people I know would not eat crabs at lunch on a working day. That is because not being adept at eating the shellfish without using their hands, they do not want to get back to work with fishy-smelling fingers.
Which is why Cove 99, a new seafood restaurant in Peck Seah Street, came up with dishes such as Chilli Crab without shells.
To be honest, I was rather sceptical before I tasted the de-shelled Chilli Crab (seasonal price, now at $58 a kg). I think crabs taste better when you suck the meat out of the shell, and the meat gets cold very fast once it is out of the shell.
Plus, how can you be sure the meat actually comes from a whole live crab? It could be canned for all you know, right?
But one taste of Cove 99's Chilli Crab and my doubts vanished.
The crabmeat was fresh. The plump, sweet flakes of it were cooked just right and came half submerged in a rich gravy. The two claw shells, with the meat removed, were placed on top - for aesthetic appeal and perhaps to reassure diners that a fresh crab was used.
I still prefer to have my crabs with the shells intact, but this was not too bad after all. And diners who have to de-shell crabs for their spouses, girlfriends or boyfriends will likely see this as heaven-sent.
The restaurant not only gives you the option of having Sri Lankan crabs de-shelled, but prawns as well.
The gravy for the Chilli Crab got my vote too. It was thick but not starchy, and did not have the ketchupy sweetness found in most versions of the dish.
Instead, it was savoury with a kick from herbs and spices and the unmistakable aroma of dried shrimp. It was so tasty, I slurped spoonfuls of crabmeat and gravy together, without bothering with the side order of deep fried buns ($1 each).
Other shellfish dishes were good too.
The Alaskan Crab Steamed With Egg White And Chinese Wine (seasonal price, now at $128 a kg) showcased the crab at its best, with its sweet, juicy meat enhanced with the wine's aroma.
And the Boston Lobster (seasonal price, now at $68 a kg), too, turned out perfect when poached in superior broth, its natural sweetness unmasked by any strong sauces.
I had a problem though with the Red Garoupa (seasonal price, now at $88 a kg), which I had steamed in Specialty Emerald Sauce.
The sauce, a sour-spicy blend of Chinese parsley and chillies, was delicious - even though its dark green colour was not very appealing. But the garoupa was chewy, which was surprising as the fish weighed just 600g and was not overcooked.
Another disappointing dish was the Wok-fried Kurobuta Pork Cube With Sliced Garlic ($19). The meat was dry and flavourless, without the crunch one expected of kurobuta. It tasted like frozen meat that had not been defrosted properly.
The Wok-fried Beef Cube In Black Pepper Sauce ($22 for small) was a better choice. The US beef was not wagyu quality, but it was tender and juicy. And the sauce was fired with just enough pepper.
For carbs, go for the Wok-tossed Three Treasure Seafood Crispy Fried Rice ($12 for small). Regular rice was mixed with puffed rice, and the crispy grains were such a delight in the mouth. The seafood - prawns, crabmeat and scallops - were fresh and sweet too.
The fried rice was much better than the noodle dish I tried. I found the Steamed Rice Vermicelli With Fresh Prawns And Scallop In Egg White And Chinese Wine ($12) a case of mismatched ingredients because the mee sua failed to soak up the flavours of either the seafood or the wine.
Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke
SundayLife! paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.
This article was first published on Nov 30, 2014.
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