Jumbo Seafood – Dempsey, SG


Jumbo Seafood @ Dempsey
Blk 11 #01-16 Dempsey Road
Singapore 249673
+65 6479 3435

Let me begin this post by asking a question.  Does who you dine with influence the anticipation you may have of a restaurant, the food they serve, etc.?  This could also be asked of your impressions of the experience while it is unfolding, with that person(s) at the table with you.  Taking it a step further, does dining with someone in the “industry”, be it from the kitchen, front of staff, or related business side of restaurants have an effect on how you describe your meal later on?

On this evening, one of the people at my table was a professional business and marketing consultant in the restaurant industry based in Singapore.  I was curious to see how their opinions and comments on the food would affect the others.  It really was sort of like a social experiment, observing the interplay of discussions around the table.  Some of the others knew this person better than others, and it was clear that these personal bonds did have an impact on the rebuttals flying around.  Me?  I just played the role of Switzerland and just enjoyed the evening…

We ordered an assortment of dishes to get a wide range of flavors, and were comfortably seated in the outdoor section of the restaurant.  The place was incredibly busy and getting a free table took some time.  Darkly lit by some pole lights, the space was covered in a frame structure, that would support an automatically deploying canopy – quite the investment, and according to the consultant, conveniently paid for by a corporate sponsor who’s logo was prominently displayed on the outside.  Luckily, but not totally unexpectedly, I was able to observe the unfolding, once a few drops of rain fell from the skies and staff quickly scrambled to start the system.

Apologies for the quality of the images.  Taken with a poorer camera and in incredibly low light without flash, some sharpness was sacrificed.  The Crispy Baby Squid was one of the first to reach our table.  The sauce it was glazed with was an oyster sauce, and the texture combination between the crispy exterior and chewy inside of the squid was interesting, but not overly memorable.

jumbo_deepfried

The Donut with Seafood Paste, was one of the recommended dishes at Jumbo.  Essentially it is deep fried cuttlefish paste fritters, sprinkled with sesame seeds and served with a sweet peanut paste.  Much like the earlier baby squid dish, the mix of crispy and moist was the key here.  I suppose I liked this dish, as it was one of the more filling that we ordered.

Steamed Bamboo Clams with Minced Garlic, that were eaten with a light soy sauce and were a challenge to eat.  Each piece was strongly stuck to the shell and required some effort to cut free.  I thought they were a bit overcooked, contributing to the tougher, rubbery consistency of the meat.

jumbo_scallops2

Scallop Wrapped in Yam Ring, served with a sweet Ngoh Hiang sauce.  Yes, another deep fried dish.  The scallop was tender and plump, though I did not care much for the outer rim made of yam paste.  Perhaps by this time I was tired of the oily, deep fried component.

Amid all the seafood, the vegetables got lost in the mix.  Here, a basic serving of Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli).

Golden Nest Salad Tiger Prawns with a sweet yogurt sauce, served in a crispy potato nest.  For me, mixing seafood with sweet tastes just never feels completely right.  I suppose I am the same with red meats.

This popular staple dish of Southeast Asia, Mee Goreng, is a mouthful of interesting flavors as aside from the yellow noodles, ingredients such as chili, vegetables, and seafood (in this case) are included.  As stomach filling as it usually is, by the time this rolled around, I was more than full.

But my table partners would not let me leave without sampling the Black Pepper Sri Lankan Crab.  I knew I had to compare this to the version at Long Beach.  The verdict, Jumbo comes in second based on the quality of the crab meat.  The overwhelming peppery sensation was the same though for both.  As special as this dish is supposed to be, I guess I will never be able to fully appreciate it fieriness, as I’d much rather enjoy the crab meat in its more natural tasting form.

The Dempsey location is now the seventh outlet of this seafood restaurant empire, and opened earlier this spring.  The area of Dempsey Hill is an alluring one, with its historical ties to the old army barracks, that have been transformed into modern yet still colonial-looking buildings that house a variety of restaurants and bars.  Driving around this maze though is an adventure, and parking is tight (a tip: park on the back side, where most people don’t really know about, its next to a nice jazz bar that I frequent when I am in town and allows you to keep a bottle with your name on it).  Bestowed with many industry and media accolades over the years, Jumbo is clearly one of the top players in the Singapore seafood scene.  The business consultant at our table had mentioned that the owners are still very hands-on, and one of them is always found at the Dempsey location.  With over twenty years established on their record for serving Singaporeans, its clear that they are still building towards more and more success.  Unfortunately, I probably won’t be one of their repeat customers, as I came away thinking it was not anything spectacular, ordinary in fact.  When the best dish was the Gai Lan, I must say that does not bode well for a seafood specialty restaurant.  I think some others were feeling the same way, but held their breath in front of the food consultant.  To each his own I guess…

Long Beach Seafood Restaurant – Queenstown, SG


[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

Long Beach Seafood Restaurant
25 Dempsey Road, Tanglin Village, Singapore
Lunch: 11:00am to 3:00pm
Dinner: 5:30pm to 1:30am

Let me begin by saying I have no clue what the prices are here, as it was a business dinner with the other side doing all the ordering and picking up the final tab  But all indications are that its not cheap…

Long Beach is a chain of four restaurants in Singapore, with their claim to fame being that apparently they were the original creators of black pepper crab, along with being the first in Singapore to serve fresh live seafood on its menu.  The location we were at was on Dempsey Road, really close to the Singapore Botanic Gardens (a great free place to walk by the way).  For those driving to this location I would share a word of caution, as the parking space on this dirt lot and windy narrow road up a hill, is not really friendly to navigate and probably always ridiculously full.  If not for a few attendants who guided us through and even directed us to park in some tight spot like an amusement park bumper car, I am not sure how we would have managed.

The space had both an outdoor patio and an air-conditioned indoor section.  They had initially tried to pull us inside to a private room, but we were more keen on taking in the more boisterous scene on the patio, and won that argument.  I’d recommend this part of the floor for sure, as it just seems like a big festival feast, with strings of colored lights, the open air environment, abundant and hustling wait staff, and general colonial feel of the white colored structure. For the sake of brevity, I’ll skip through the long parade of dishes that came to our table, all ordered by our gracious Singaporean host.  Some of it was excellent, others a bit unusual, and others flat out ordinary on taste.  Last but not least, came the star of the show… the black pepper (Sri Lankan) crab.  Actually two of them arrived, and looking around our table of five, I could tell some were already bursting at the seams.  I was probably one of them, but how could I pass this up after all the hype I’d heard over the years.

Staring at me from the plate, one of the crustaceans was simply glistening in the mixture of black pepper and soy, with its massive claws folded neatly by its side and in front of its face.  I envisioned a battle might ensue at the table for those prized clampers, but as luck would have it, some of those who’d had enough easily gave up their stakes and I ended up with two!  Our host asked one of the servers to do us all a favor and take apart the crabs so they would be easier to eat – what a fantastic idea!  He took it to a side table and began breaking it down and after a short while, came back with one of them with its meat all piled up in a clean little pile served in the body shell.  The claws arrived on a separate dish, with plenty of the meat visible to just about everyone at the round table, making me think that I might have lost my second claw to a regretful diner.

Taking a spoonful of the meat that had been carefully carved out of the shell and smaller limbs, I knew right away this was very fresh.  Even the thinnest strands that I tasted were succulent and rich with flavor, and this came out despite the incredibly overwhelming power of the black pepper.  The more and more I ate though, I began to feel that the black pepper was quickly becoming a distraction, as it was so one-sided in flavor that each bite began to meld easily into the next without a real contrast in taste sensations.  In baseball analogy, it was like facing a fastball after fastball, with no sign of a curveball in sight.  If not for the amazingly meaty front claws that I had on my plate, which gave some change in texture, and even more flavorful scents of the crabmeat itself, I am not sure I would have enjoyed it as much after a while.  But all in all, I could see why this was the signature dish, as it certainly was a memorable experience in dining.

Just be lucky like me and be able to keep your wallet in your pocket when the massive bill comes to the table.  Don’t meals always taste better that way? 🙂