new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Palm Beach Seafood: Giant Ass Crabs And Devouring Them in Singapore

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Palm Beach Seafood: Giant Ass Crabs And Devouring Them in Singapore

Palm Beach Seafood
One Fullerton Road
Tel: +65 6227 2332
Singapore



I went to Palm Beach Seafood for my first Chili Crab Experience in Singapore last year, had a nice meal, and figured it would be fine for us to go back again. It's one of the chili crab emporiums that gets regularly recommended to out-of-town types willing to pay for the experience, and it's also in an indisputably enviable locale at One Fullerton Place, within post-dinner stroll distance of the Merlion and many, many high-end shopping opportunities. (Like all of Singapore).

Palm Beach is a standard Chinese seafood house and you can tell by the dining room, which has white tile floors, fake foliage-adorned walls, a bunch of large bubbling fish tanks at the back of the room, and is pitched at a very, very high volume. Chinese seafood houses are roughly the same everywhere insofar as I can tell.

The menu has a range of fresh seafood dishes, along with some non-seafaring specialities to even out the menu. The standby is of course crab, and there are a number of different species and sizes on offer, priced by the weight, and with a number of different cooking styles. You can pick your own victim from the tanks. Most people get the Singapore classic chili crab, which is cracked crab stir-fried in a sweet and spicy red sauce, served with bread rolls for sopping purposes.

Palm Beach really does do an epic chili crab, and this supposedly "medium" stone crab was an impressive specimen of the species. It was roughly as big as my head, in fact. Staring down a gigantic crustacean at dinner time is one of my (many) definitions of a good time, and once we were given Palm Beach branded seafood-bibs and some implements of destruction (crab crackers), we were well on our way.


The demise of Pinchy.

I don't really remember much about digging into a good crab, as I tend to enter what is commonly known as a fugue state, but it was tasty, really tasty, and there was a lot of it. I must say that I prefer my family's home-made chili crab to the restaurant stuff - the sauce is too sweet - but this was pretty excellent all the same. They didn't overcook and undercook the crab, which is an occasional complaint. Chili crab is in essence a fairly simple thing, or it should be.



We also tried some very good milk-fried prawns: bursty little beasts fried in hot oil then served with buttery crumbles mixed with fried curry leaves and a touch of garlic. Curry leaves are a favorite of mine, rarely encountered in the West, and they gave the dish an exotic, subtle South Indian flare. I am not sure where the "milk" part comes in, but maybe it has something to do with the buttery crumbles. They were very good, and an interesting departure from the stand-by of salt and pepper shrimp.

We ordered some fried duck to go with the seafood, which was a mistake at a restaurant that specializes in seafood: overcooked and too tough, except for the drumstick, which naturally I got when my parents weren't looking. Skip it. A better side dish is spicy fried morning glory, which was very good the first time I was here, and is a natural, nutrient-rich accompaniment to seafood dishes in Southeast Asia.



Palm Beach does nickle and dime, as many Chinese seafood places do. Being charged extra for a supposedly complimentary plate of prawn crackers and pineapple sambal is a bit tacky: if something is on a table in front of you at most restaurants, it is a tacit agreement that it's free, or at least it is in my book.

The place was chock-full when we arrived and the hostess put us in a rather lame seat right next to the door, which incensed my father since we did arrange through the hotel concierge and called in advance in the morning - and a walk-in group got a nicer table immediately upon arrival.

After some poiteish posturing on the matter (well, polite as posturing about table location gets, I guess), we were put somewhere nicer. If you book far enough in advance, you can also be seated outside with a view over Marina Bay while you do horrible things to innocent sea creatures, which does sound pretty salubrious.

Addendum: I have always wondered why human beings love to gaze wistfully over the sea from whence the creatures they are messily devouring came from. Maybe it makes us feel like we are the brave fisher-people our ancestors hailed from. Maybe gazing over the sea makes us feel like conquerors of what lies beneath, never mind that the vast majority of the under-sea species we eat really aren't much brighter than, well, a lobster. (Exceptions made for octopi and whales. I'm sorry, guys. Real sorry.)

Or, maybe people just really dig a sea-view and like to assume that what they are eating was pulled wriggling and feisty from the very ocean they are looking at, even if in reality, dinner came from somewhere far away and was (if it was lucky) dumped into a holding tank before the inevitable end. This is rarely the case, of course - except in Cambodia, where crabs, fish, and prawns are kept in wicker boxes tied to over-the-water restaurants, and are fished out as need desires. Convenient enough in its way, except for in a typhoon.

1 comment:

undercover caterer said...

Is it possible to recreate a chili crab with good old Dungeness? They look so good I want to eat the screen. It's maddening.