Crab Shack, Upper Thomson Road
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.