Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Crab Shack, Upper Thomson Road

A Three Piece Set of Flower Crabs

Just as USA Today ran a story the other day on seafood shacks in New England (and getting me excited about it in the process), someone had posted a suggestion to hit up this place in Singapore (227 Upper Thomson Road, 9451-9040). I was intrigued, considering that it wasn't common around here to eat crab straight like we do back home, with the possible exception of places like the Big Bird (but even then, it's still fairly local with its hot sauce, and obviously crab is not that place's focus). This place, with its checkered tablecloths and metal buckets and such, was clearly trying to model itself differently. We made the trek on up there tonight to check it out.

Now, one key thing to note with this place is that they use local crabs. Specifically, they use local flower crabs, which thankfully are much tastier than the super thick-shelled Sri Lankan crabs used in chili crab around here. In that sense, they reminded me a bit of the taste of Dungeness crab from back home. One would think that I would be all over that as a result, but the problem is that these crabs are small to the point where it is rather difficult to extract any usable meat from it (don't even bother trying to get at those pencil-thin legs...the claws are enough of a challenge as it is, and hence the meat is really in the body instead, and you've gotta dig underneath the gills and guts to get there). So actually, they are a bit more like those little blue crabs from Chesapeake Bay (especially since they steam the crabs here and serve them hot), but this West Coast kid hasn't had enough experience nor the skills with those to be able to eat these effectively. And no, they didn't give melted butter (and they definitely didn't give any Old Bay nor wooden mallets). Instead, they provided some sweet chili sauce that I passed on.

I've always believed that crab (and clams, for that matter) is not something that one should eat when hungry, since it takes so much effort to shell those things and only get a little bit of meat out of it in the end (almost seeming like "negative calorie food" like celery). Today's little flower crabs only went to prove that point further, and it was quite frustrating, to be honest. So we tried ordering some of their carbs to fill our bellies, such as the crab spaghetti and crab baked rice. And while neither were horrible, they still didn't quite do the job. The former dish came in a decently tasty thin sauce, but certainly wasn't the inspirational linguini al granchio from Cantina that we were secretly hoping for. And rather shockingly, the crab baked rice featured slices of cylindrical artificial crab in it. While it still tasted fine (interestingly, they also used those little dried shrimp used in Chinese cuisine), it just seemed a bit out of place for these guys to be using artificial crab in the rice. In the end, we had to pop across the street to the Roti Prata House in order to top this all off to the point of satisfaction.

So while I certainly loved the concept of this place, I doubt that I'll make the effort to come all the way up here again in the interests of eating. Instead, this would be a nice place to hit on a Sunday afternoon with some beer and the buddies, when one isn't really looking to eat for the sake of satiating hunger, but rather just as a socializing event when the food is relegated to a periphery activity. Unfortunately, I don't think that these guys are open in the daytime (it looks like they are sharing their location with a local hawker or something and only convert over at night). But they are open until midnight, so maybe that scenario isn't that far fetched after all. I've just gotta remember to eat *before* I come here.


Saffron, Mace and Nutmeg said...

Loved your blog!What's common between our blogs-is that we love food.The uncommon factor-I love to cook!Look forward reading more of your blog...

Jaded said...

Hey Travelling Hungryboy.. I noticed your blog while looking up a picture for #2 Satay @ Tung Kee Noodle House.

You've got great pictures and descriptions of the food you've experienced.

I too love taking pictures of my food before consumption and posting reviews about what I've eaten. I'm also majorly jealous of Tony Bourdain and watch his show religiously.

If you have a chance, stop by my blog and check out my reviews. My pictures suck, but I've also got a crappy camera phone to work with. I've only got 3 reviews up so far, but I'm continuing to make the list grow.


Anonymous said...

Hey! maybe you can ask for those crab eating tools that the Chinese use (if they have it). There's supposed to be 8, I think, but they've got a reduced version (3) especially for those hard-to-reach spindly legs.
Very good for hairy crabs which are also small, but are fleshy.

Mister Fedward Hyde said...

TMA, in the basement of Tanglin Mall they have a supermarket that sells frozen Alaskan crab. One is the snowfish type. All you do is bake it for 5 mins, then you can dip it in melted butter like we do at home. All for a meager 12sgd.

Give it a try!

Anonymous said...

Realize that most of your meals are on the expensive side...would be great if you could review more hawker/coffee shop food.

In any case, i tried this place out. First time eating flower crabs. And although the crabs were smaller than i the sri lankan type i was used to..the meat was really sweet!

They also had a new dish - soft shell crabs! And this was my favourite!! It was light and crispy! And for the first time, i actually managed to taste chunk of crab meat in soft shell crabs! And they topped it off with some chicken floss which gave it a unique twist!

In any case, the soft shell crabs are highly recommended! It's worth going back just for this dish, even if you didn't care too much for the flower crabs!

Will be back there soon to try out the other dishes!