Jumbo Seafood @ Dempsey
Blk 11 #01-16 Dempsey Road
+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.
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.
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…