Many restaurants here have come up with their own version of chilli crab and many are good.
But none has left as memorable an impression on me as the chilli crab at Blue Lotus Eating House, the three-week-old Chinese restaurant at Sentosa Cove's Quayside Isle, opened by former Tung Lok chief operating officer Ricky Ng and the Emmanuel Stroobant Group.
But then, the dish is not your run-of-the-mill chilli crab. The Blue Lotus Signature Chilli Pomelo Crab ($6.80 a 100g) has none of the ketchup-laden gravy thickened with egg found in many seafood restaurants. Instead, the sauce is a concoction of chopped herbs and spices such as lemongrass and curry leaves, with just enough chilli to give it fire without scorching the tongue.
Meaty pieces of a whole Sri Lankan crab, usually weighing about 1.5kg, are stirred into this delicious mix until just cooked and its sweet flesh infused with its aromatic herbs and spices.
The inspired touch, however, is throwing fresh pomelo over the crab just before serving. The translucent fruit sacs not only add visual appeal but also give the dish a more refreshing acidity than the vinegar most restaurant use in chilli crab. And the sweetness in the fruit moderates the fire from the chilli too.
It was love at first bite when I tried the dish two weeks ago, so I ordered it again when I returned to the restaurant the next day. And it was just as good.
Blue Lotus calls it its signature dish. I call it an instant classic.
Another dish I ordered twice is the Wok Fried Kagoshima Wagyu Beef Tenderloin ($45) - first at my second dinner and then a week later at lunch. Many restaurants serve this dish of beef cubes cooked with onions and capsicums in a black peppercorn sauce, but none use Kagoshima beef - which is what makes the version here stand out.
Half-cooked meat is added to the heated stone bowl just before being served and comes to the table sizzling. A couple of stirs with a spoon and the beef is perfect, bursting with oils and juices.
Spoon all the pieces out immediately if you like your beef medium rare. They get overcooked if you leave them too long in the hot bowl, which is a shame with such well-marbled meat.
One other dish was so good, we ordered it again at the same meal. My two dining companions and I had decided to share a bowl of the King Prawn Truffle "Wonton" Soup ($16) so we have room for the other dishes. But the stock, made from simmering Chinese ham and perfumed with a piece of black truffle, was so delicious that we wanted it again at the end of the meal. Never mind that we were stuffed, we wolfed down the plump, prawn-filled wontons too.
It's not cheap but the quality is as good as in a fine-dining Chinese restaurant and well worth paying for.
Not every dish is a winner, however.
I find the Wok Fried Blue Mussels ($38 for 750g) a bit of a waste of the delicious New Zealand mussels because the saltiness in the black bean and chilli sauce clashes with the shellfish's delicate sweetness. The Singapore Style Chilli Blue Mussels ($38 for 750g), with its dry sambal sauce, works much better.
For lunch, the restaurant also serves local hawker fare such as bak kut teh and prawn noodle soup.
The King Prawn Noodles ($18) is good, with a robust stock and good-sized prawns and chunks of tender pork rib. The only letdown is that the prawns are a tad overcooked.
Much care, too, is put into making the broth for the Hot Stone Long Ribs "Bak Kut Teh" ($15), which not only has Chinese herbs but also black garlic. But the garlic, together with dates and wolfberries, makes it too sweet and the aftertaste of liquorice is too obvious. A few tweaks to the recipe should easily put all that right though.
SundayLife! paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.
BLUE LOTUS CHINESE EATING HOUSE
31 Ocean Way, Quayside Isle, 01 -13, tel: 6339-0880
Open: 11.30am to 10pm (Mondays, Wednesdays to Saturdays), 10am to 10pm (Sundays and public holidays). Closed on Tuesdays
Price: Budget from $50 to $70 a person
Wok Fried Kagoshima Wagyu Beef Tenderloin ($45)
The succulent beef cubes are bursting with oils and juices.