Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mellben Seafood, Ang Mo Kio, Singapore

Sunday, August 7, 2011
Mellben's Crab Bee Hoon

Ask a Singaporean to name our national dish and chances are "crabs" are gonna pop up nine out of ten times. It's true. We love our crabs. Not everyone digs oysters or blood cockles, but throw them a crab and you know they'll polish their plates clean with gusto. Besides, what better crustacean to celebrate, with National Day in two days? Every Singaporean has their personal favourite style of crabs, even if Chilli Crab is the only one that has made it big beyond our shores. And yet, this most famous rendition of our favourite crustacean has hardly stolen my heart. I stand by my black pepper crabs. And then there's salted egg yolk crabs, butter crabs, and lo and behold, crab bee hoon. I know how ordinary crab bee hoon sounds, but take a sip of the milky soup oozing with crabby creaminess and you might find yourself vehemently disagreeing. Or at least politely.


Isn't Mellben seafood just the sort of crab powerhouse that everyone knows about? Everyone flocks here for crabs, but if you're in the know, you'll be choosing butter crabs and crab bee hoon over chilli crab. Unless, of course, if you're having all of them! The last time I was here, I had both the butter crab and crab bee hoon. This time round, I went for just the crab bee hoon. The crab bee hoon has a fantastic soup, but of course, all that flavour in the soup means that the crab itself loses some of them. Not a problem if you dunk the succulent crab meat into a spoonful of soup and take them in one bite. You won't regret it. Even my Hong Kong friend raved to me about the crab bee hoon he had at Mellben when he visited Singapore, describing to me in Cantonese how fresh he found the soup and how much he missed it. In Cantonese, fresh in relation to seafood describes how the freshness of the seafood has come through in the dish. The other star dish, butter crabs, is a heavenly flavour bomb. I mean, butter and crabs?? You'll likely find yourself mopping up the sauce in some way or another (mantou?) until the very last drop and still yearn for more.

Braised tofu from melben seafood
Interior, Braised Tofu, $8

If I get absolutely critical, I found the soup a tad less flavourful than I remembered - as though there was more salt than crab flavour. Next time round, I'll probably opt for butter crabs for a thicker sauce and more flavourful meat. Also, the prices are not pretty. One medium crab would set you back about 50-60? The size to cost ratio for the small portion of braised tofu fared worse. Not forgetting the fact that the wait would take at least an hour!

Mellben's Disclaimer

And then there was the amusing disclaimer dished to you right after you've taken your order. It really tickled me. Definitely not the best way to whet your customer's appetite! Looks like business is so brisk that they have no qualms issuing anti-marketing disclaimers.

So, what do you think? Are there restaurants serving better crabs out there? Do you go back to Melben again and again despite it all?

Mellben Seafood (Ang Mo Kio)
Blk 232 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3,
#01-1222 Singapore
Tel: +65 6353 3120

Mellben Seafood (Toa Payoh)
Blk 211 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh,
#01-11/15 Singapore
Tel: +65 6353 3120

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