Two weekends ago, Tawn and I took a break in Singapore. It was a busy four days filled with seeing friends and eating. Singapore is well-known as a foodie’s paradise. Dinner the first night was with a group of Singaporean friends who took us to Number 3 Crab, an excellent seafood restaurant in the Tiong Bahru neighborhood.
Tiong Bahru is one of the the oldest housing estates in Singapore and has been undergoing something of a gentrification in the past few years. It is becoming quite a hip and happening place thanks to its charming mix of vaguely art deco government flats and traditional Chinese chop houses, with residents ranging from local Singaporeans to expatriates from all corners of the globe.
Having a drink (a Singapore Sling, of course) in the lobby of our hotel, the Millenium Orchard Hotel, located conveniently on the far end of Orchard Road, a short walk from the MRT station.
Number 3 Crab has been acclaimed as one of Singapore’s finest restaurants and its owners, Thomas and Wendy Lim, have an edge on the competition: they are purveyors of seafood, not just restaurateurs, and own a fresh seafood stall at a local market.
The menu, illustrated with large color photos, includes just about every type of seafood you could imagine, including crocodile paw, something we didn’t get around to sampling. In addition, they offer several meat dishes and a good selection of vegetables, so you can round out your dinner nicely.
Here is our dinner, in the order that the dishes arrived:
Stir fried greens – spinach, I think – in a light broth with fried silverfish on top.
Pork spareribs in a sweet, sticky, and rich coffee glaze. These were so wonderful, I almost forgot that we were going to eat crab and gorged on the ribs!
Crispy fried beancurd (tofu) which I think had chopped shrimp mixed into it. I may be wrong about that, though. In either case, it was tasty and the texture was a perfect contrast of crispy exterior and silken interior.
This is the clams with special sauce, which I think was enhanced with soy milk. I might be wrong about that, but it sure was tasty.
Hong Kong style steamed fish with a soy and oil sauce. This fish was really lovely, light, delicate, and perfectly cooked.
The first of our two crabs (serving seven of us) was prepared with a chili sauce. They give everyone a large plastic bib because there is no way to eat the crabs without making a mess of it. The sauce was nice, more sweet than spicy.
The second crab came with a special pepper sauce, which I found even more enjoyable than the chili sauce. The pepper sauce has a more complex flavor, using different types of pepper to add depth.
To get a sense of how large these crabs are, here’s me hoarding the first one. A lot of the time, I don’t see the point of messing around with crabs because they are too small to make the effort worthwhile. In this case, the crabs were huge and there was plenty of meat inside. The crabs were also very fresh, pulled from a tank kicking and screaming (well, kicking) and killed to order.
This dinner was a good example of Singaporean food at its best: simple dishes prepared with tremendously fresh ingredients and cooked with great skill. As a sign on their wall puts it, their name may be “Number 3 Crab” but they are definitely number one.