SINGAPORE - The Korean seafood tower concept seems to be catching on among diners here. Besides House of Seafood's two outlets in Upper Serangoon Road and The Punggol Settlement, Captain K - which opened in Prinsep Street in March last year - has just opened a second restaurant in Middle Road.
There is a new player too - K- Tower, which opened in Amoy Street in December with the promise of better quality in the form of live seafood.
Last week, it cut the prices of the sets by moving the more expensive seafood, such as lobster, to the a la carte section. It also introduced a cheaper three-tier set. Diners who do not mind paying more can still order the premium items as add-ons. Lobster, for example, is priced at $108 a kg.
A seafood tower now comes in tiers of three to nine steamers. Each steamer holds different items and at the bottom is a pot of broth. With the broth kept on a simmer, the steam wafting up ensures the food stays warm, while the juices from the seafood drip down into the pot.
At the end of the meal, you can order more ingredients to add to the soup, turning it into a steamboat.
K-Tower offers four types of broth: seafood, which is complimentary, kimchi (add $10), army stew (add $10) and ginseng chicken (add $20). The seafood and kimchi soups I tried both turn out well; it just depends on whether you like your steamboat clean-tasting or spicy.
74 Amoy Street, tel: 6221-9928,
open: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30 to 10pm daily
Food: 3.5/5 stars
Service: 3/5 stars
Ambience: 3/5 stars
Price: Budget from $50 a person for seafood tower and from $15 a person for other items
Couples can start with a three-tier tower ($58), containing the soup base, prawn, scallop, oyster and shellfish (clams and mussels). And those in groups of three to five can get the $128, five-tier set, while bigger groups can go for the $198 one with seven tiers . Vegetables such as broccoli, corn and sweet potato are included in all the sets.
The tallest is nine tiers ($298) and it comes with lobster, mud crab, oyster, fish, sea cucumber, prawn, scallop, squid and shellfish. For an additional $90, you get abalone as well. This can feed seven or eight people, or more if you pad it up with a la carte orders.
Quality is ensured because the restaurant uses live seafood such as prawns, lobster, crab, abalone and shellfish, which are kept in tanks at the back. That makes a big difference - most evident in the prawns, which are much sweeter than the chilled variety.
The worst thing you can do with steamed seafood is to overcook it and that hardly happens here. Live abalone can easily turn rubbery if the cooking is not timed correctly, but here it is springy and easy to bite through.
And the fish, which is red snapper at my dinner, is tender and moist, cooked just right.
Only the shellfish is overcooked. The clams still taste sweet even with the juices dried up, but the mussels are dry and bland.
So I have to resort to dipping them in the sauces provided, which was not necessary with the other seafood. There are four sauces available: a soya sauce-vinegar blend, Korean wasabi, sambal and gochujang. The vinegary blend works best, while those who like their food with a bit of spice will enjoy the sambal. The other two sauces tend to mask the sweetness of the steamed food.
If you are still hungry after polishing off the seafood, there is still a steamboat to look forward to. The a la carte menu features mainly processed items such as Fish Tofu With Cheese ($3.90) and Fish Ball With Roe ($3.90). But there are also premium items such as wagyu beef ($12.90), which is of very decent quality.
For diners who are not interested in the tower, there are dishes such as Bulgogi Chicken, Pork or Beef ($11.90) and Army Stew ($26.90 for two persons), which are popular with the lunch crowd.
Side orders of Fried Chicken Wings ($7.90) and Fried Oysters ($7.90) are also available. The Seafood Pancake ($14.90) is especially good. Fried to an even golden colour, it boasts crisp edges and is not oily.
Oddly, the restaurant does not offer dessert. So you will have to go elsewhere if you need to satisfy your craving for bingsu.
Note: The restaurant has since introduced a dessert called Trilogy Rice Cake, comprising pan-fried Korean rice cake with pumpkin, cheese and sweet potato fillings drizzled with honey.
•Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke and on Instagram @wongahyoke
•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.
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