Okay so I know I’m a bit slow and that Eng Seng’s black pepper crabs have been raved about for years. But it was always so far away and somehow I just never got a proper chance, so I hadn’t tried this popular crab dish until recently when one arose.
And my verdict is that the sauce is indeed mopping-up-last-morsels-with-bread good. With a thick, slightly sweet sauce made tangy with coarse black pepper bits, every bite of the juicy crab meat was full of flavour.
Z was not too happy about the size of the crabs (from India) as he prefers the big, meaty types (from Sri Lanka). While I tend to agree on it being more satisfying to bite into nice sizeable chunks of crab flesh, I thought the meat of these crabs were fresh, firm and sweet – not like the powdery sort one tends to get at some seafood restaurants.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the sauce! It tastes somewhat different from the kind you get at most places, but I can’t quite put a finger to what makes it unique. Maybe there is some secret ingredient?
Other than the crabs, we also had another crowd favourite, the Mee Goreng (S$5), and a regular dish, the Stir-fried Kailan (S$8). And strangely enough, both of us really enjoyed the latter, much more so than the former.
The Mee Goreng was not too bad and had a just-right level of spice to it, but having tried the one nearby at the Hong Kong Street food centre which has so much egg bits (I love these in fried noodles), toppings, taste and moisture, we thought this was just mediocre and a bit dry.
The Stir-fried Kailan on the other hand, was surprisingly good. Lightly fried, the vegetables retained some nice crunch while the light, not-overly-salty sauce gave it flavour and juice, making it an overall balanced, tasty dish.
We had two small/medium sized crabs for S$65 (S$50/kg), so it cost us around $40 each in total.
Though service was a bit lacking, I was quite happy with the food and would likely visit again for the black pepper crabs sometime. However as I too prefer bigger crabs (and my preferred style of cooking these is salted egg yolk, anyway… mmm), probably not that soon.
And the thought of trying to manoeuver through the large crowds, especially on weekends, to get a seat is also not too exciting. I think one would have to go for a slightly early dinner on a week night (around 6.30-7.00pm) which is what we did, or a very early dinner on weekends (around 4.30-5pm) to avoid having to jostle with others.
First Grade Seafood Palace
(most people call it Eng Seng, which is the name of the coffee shop)
No. 247 – 249 Joo Chiat Place
Near Malacca Hotel
Tel: +65 6440 5560
(you can book your crabs in advance on the day itself)
Open from 4.30 to 9.00pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to Sundays. Closed on Wednesdays.