One of my Makan Kakis recently posted some pictures of Raw Crabs and it became my life fixation to meet that crab.
So a month later, I found myself at San Shu Gong Private Dining.
It was my first time at this restaurant. I was to learn later from the owners that this restaurant is only 3 months old.
The restaurant is not big and only has about 6-7 tables.
But it also houses 2 private rooms.
When I arrived, the restaurant was heaving. Needless to say, every table was fully booked including the private rooms.
I am given to understand that the private rooms are difficult to get and there is a minimum spend of $600 (which is quite reasonable actually).
And there is a waiting time when you try to get a reservation for the restaurant. I believe the current waiting time is 1-2 months but it depends on the day so do call to speak to them.
The first indication that this restaurant is of substance is that on that one night, we met two separate group of foodies with their foodie friends all dining at the restaurant.
These were people whom I have dined with before and they are some of the most critical and discerning diners and are not easy to please.
Extreme foodies if you like.
That they are all congregating here augers well.
The ambience and service
The restaurant, albeit small, was tastefully decorated, modern and comfortable.
Service was attentive and efficient.
The restaurant has a no corkage policy and provides nice wine glasses. A definite plus point.
The owners of the restaurant is a nice couple called Roy and Fiona.
I was lucky enough to have a chat with Roy Go.
There are a few compelling reasons why this restaurant is doing so well and why I found their food to be of an exemplary standard.
Firstly, it’s their chefs.
For those of you who know about Chui Huay Lim Teochew Cuisine 醉花林品潮轩, the Chinese restaurant in the Teochew clan association, you will know that the food there is very good, particularly when they first started.
There has been some murmurings in recent times that the standard at Chui Huay Lim is not what it used to be, but I cannot verify that as I have not been there in the last few years.
Some of the chefs in San Shu Gong were ex chefs in Chui Huay Lim. So the kitchen staff is clearly a talented bunch.
Secondly, Roy the owner himself has been a chef for 15 years working in the Chinese restaurants of hotel Holiday Inn, hotel St Regis and hotel The Hilton. So the dishes in his restaurant has his input and creative energy.
A strong talented team in the kitchen guided by an owner chef is a winning combination.
The third important reason is that Roy’s father in law has been in the business of importing and supplying fresh seafood and meats since 1970 to date. They supply to some of the leading Seafood chains in town.
So the seafood at San Shu Kong are all of the highest quality, and freshness abounded. Another winning combination.
I asked Roy why the name San Shu Gong which in chinese means “the third grand uncle”. Roy explained that his father in law is in fact the third grand uncle in his family so the name of the restaurant is like a tribute to him.
A nice sounding name and also one that is reminiscent of family and elders.
Innovative, modern touches but largely old school recipes steeped in tradition, and skilful execution.
And fresh, fresh, fresh.
That’s how I would describe the food at San Shu Gong.
A breath of fresh air, a new chapter, but carrying on time honoured traditions.
The Raw Crab
This for me, was the piece de resistance. I would come back to this restaurant again and again just for for this dish.
The freshest, sweetest crab with its deep orange roe is treated just with good quality sea salt, a little Hua Diao Chiew and a little good superior soy.
The sauces were very subtle and allowed the freshness of the crab to shine through.
The Cold Crabs
Don’t get me wrong, the cold crab is as good as any I have tried.
But it tasted almost ordinary after the lusciousness of the raw crab.
Order one or both. To each it’s own.
We were all excited when we heard this dish was ordered.
Most of us at the table were gout warriors. We loved all manners of offal although it made our toes tingle.
Then cry the next day when Mr Gout arrives angry and condemning.
The intestines were soft and the sauce was light and well balanced.
Again I think it’s a matter of taste but the intestines did not bowl me over.
And that’s blasphemous if you knew how much I love intestines.
It was just too light and subtle for me and subtlety has never been my middle name.
The Ngoh Hiang (minced Pork and prawn roll) is a perennial favourite in most Hokkien and Teochew restaurants.
I would say San Shu Kong did a decent enough version although it is not compelling enough for me to order it the next time, when so many other good dishes were beckoning.
And I did find the addition of deep fried fish skin alongside the roll to be strange, awkward and unnecessary.
It’s like inviting your ex girlfriend to your mother in law’s 60th Birthday party.
You get the drift.
Clams and Croutons
An interesting dish.
The freshest of clams is coated with what I thought could be a fermented bean sauce mixture (I could be wrong) with a very generous pairing of …wait for it …. Chinese croutons.
Pork lard La.
This is one of the best oyster omelette I have had in a Chinese restaurant.
The shattering crispness was incredible and the oysters, albeit small, were fresh and flavourful.
Certainly one of the winners for the night.
That crispiness was unreal. And illegal in 17 states.
It was a wild deep sea Spotted Garoupa.
It died gloriously just for us with a smile when it arrived at our table.
It was of a hefty size and beautifully steamed.
It was so fresh and the meat was just delectable.
And that sauce.
It was so tasty I couldn’t stop slurping it down.
Right to the time they came to remove the plate with the bones.
They had to drag me away screaming and kicking when they tried to remove the plate.
Vegetables are like mother in laws. We tolerate each other and it’s a necessary evil.
But don’t expect me to swoon over vegetables.
It was assorted vegetables and mushrooms braised in a superior stock with conpoy.
The briny richness of the conpoy lifted the dish,
My dining companions universally liked it.
Hmm. I barely remember what it tasted like.
I was like good bye vegetable dish. Good bye mother in law.
Chai Poh Kway Teow
Ok now we’re talking.
Their version is outstanding.
Deep rich wok hei and the smoky aroma was coupled with delicious umami overtones with a generous sprinkling of chai poh (Salted dry radish).
But they do it with a twist here. it came spicy with quite a kick as they have added fresh chillies into the frying.
I loved the spiciness and it made their version all that much better and distinct from everyone else.
But I can see this being too spicy for some.
Don’t be a wuss. You only live once.
This is another favourite dish of the evening for me.
The Crystal dumplings came beautiful and glistening.
The skin was so silky and elegant and the Mung bean filling was perfect and not too sweet.
My dining companions raved about the Orh Nee (sweet yam paste) and I thought it was pretty darned good as well.
But I’m a sucker for good Tau Suan (split mung bean).
And their Tau Suan is one of the best I’ve had for a long time.
Well cooked and not too mushy, the ginkgo nut and the orange peel undertones gave it a sophistication it deserved.
Kudos to the chefs in creating an old time dessert but elevating it to a different level.
Farewell but not for long
All in all, we had a wonderful night. Our lubricants worked well.
The food was amazing and the wines superlative.
A perfect evening.
And the pricing?
We paid less than $80 per head for fresh great quality seafood and exquisite Chinese cooking.
On the way out, my Makan foodie friend from the other table told me “the fried rice is very good here”.
Enough said. I’ll be back soon.
San Shu Gong 135 Geylang Road Singapore 389226 Opening 12pm- 3pm, 6pm – 1030 pm