It’s time to go crab crazy! For just two weeks (25 June to 12 July 2009), Ellenborough Market Cafe is bringing back their highly successful crab buffet, first introduced last year.
Both media and food bloggers were invited for food tasting sessions prior to the launch. Besides being a preview, it was also a feedback session. Hence, some dishes may be fine-tuned; taste and presentation may differ slightly from what you see here.
As it was a private tasting session, dishes were presented ala carte. Let’s start with an all-time Singaporean favorite: black pepper crab!
Actually, crab done black pepper-style has never been a favorite of mine. Most versions I’ve tried tend to go overboard on the black pepper. But Ellenborough Market Cafe’s version has won me over! The zingy black pepper packs a pleasant punch that doesn’t overpower the sweetness of the crabmeat, and you can taste other flavors in the seasonings as well.
Another classic — chilli crab! Again, I was impressed with the chilli gravy. It’s not too spicy, but I like! Sweet, spicy, savoury — the different flavors harmonized to create a balanced and pleasing result. Very shiok!
Here’s the perfect sponge to mop up that thick, scrumptious chilli crab gravy! They used to serve full-sized mantou, but now, these mini ones are served instead because previous customers indicated their preference for smaller buns.
On to the Nyonya curry crab! For this dish, instead of Sri Lanka crabs, the sweet, delicate flower crab is used as it’s better suited to the spices of the curry gravy. Again, another winner!
Of the four, my personal favorite is the Thai sauce crab. There’s a certain allure about this aromatic sauce that I just can’t quite describe. Sweet, tangy, spicy, and redolent of herbs and spices…mmm, there’s a complexity about it that’s simply intriguing.
Actually, we started our session with this refreshing salad. This was presented individually. We were told that the original plan is to serve this in a big bowl for diners to help themselves to at the buffet. But all the bloggers commented that perhaps a better alternative would be to portion the salad out into small portions, like in shooters or Chinese spoons.
There was also crab risotto, but after the spicy crabs, I couldn’t make out the flavors in it! So here’s a useful tip. At the buffet, try the risotto first before attacking the spicy crabs!
On top of the crab items, there’s a spread of both local and international fare normally available at the Ellenborough Market Cafe buffet. But do note, the crab buffet is available only for dinner.
We also got to help ourselves to the dessert spread at the buffet. There’s chocolate fountain, cakes and pastries. But Ellenborough Market Cafe is renowned for its Straits Chinese, or Peranakan cuisine. That’s because the Peranakan section is helmed by the famous Nyonya chef Shirley Tay.
Just like a traditional Peranakan matriarch who doesn’t believe in shortcuts to cooking, Chef Shirley Tay insists that the kueh dadar has to be freshly made at a live station. In fact, you can see her personally making the kueh dadar, unless it’s her day off. That’s true Nyonya dedication for you!
This has got to be the softest kueh dadar I’ve ever tried. What a BIG difference from store-bought ones!
This isn’t your usual New York cheesecake. It’s infused with durian! Don’t worry, the durian taste is actually very subtle. I didn’t expect cheese and durian to go together, but the light cheesecake with a faint durian scent turned out better than I expected.
Saving the best for last, here’s Market Cafe’s legendary durian pengat! It’s creamy and rich, but light as air so that you can go for seconds. It’s mindblowingly divine!
Unlimited crab and durian pengat, this must be a Singaporean foodie’s fantasy come true! Just these two are enough to entice me to try out the buffet.
Many thanks to Sok Hoon and Yvonne for their invitation and gracious hospitality!
Ultimate Crab Buffet Dinner
25 June to 12 July 2009
Adult S$46++, Child S$23++
Enquiries: 6239 1848
Ellenborough Market Cafe
Swissotel Merchant Court
20 Merchant Road