...or hairy crabs, as they are usually known as.
I knew I'd be late, given the rush hour madness at the MRT stations. The heavy wooden toy set (it must have been at least 6 kg) that I'd lugged all the way from Paragon wasn't very helpful in increasing my pace. So I decided to take the good old bus to get to Capital Restaurant instead. Not a bad idea. In fact, it was brilliant. Not only was the bus relatively spacious (as compared to the over-packed trains), the ride was also smooth and fast. I reached much earlier than expected and could afford to withdraw some cash, try a bowl of fishball (the stall called it fish bakso) noodles from the People's Park food center and identify some of the most competitive money changers in the adjacent complex. It was a very good start to the dinner ahead.
The name Capital (首都) itself has already given an impression that it's been around for decades. New restaurants don't bank on names like this. They prefer something, anything that catches your attention or raises an eyebrow. I'm sure one who's reading this can instantly name a few. Well, I happen to think that there's a certain rustic charm to a name like Capital. And to have survived so long in this dynamic F&B business on this little red dot means something.
This is at the fringe of Chinatown, an area that I'd only passed by, but never took notice of the shoplots. If not for wanting to try hairy crabs, I wouldn't have known the existence of Capital. Some hotels in town offer hairy crabs too, but I don't think the prices are as affordable as here.
What's the correct procedure to dissect the crab to fully savour its taste? Do we taste the fur on the claws? Is there a particular sequence to eating the legs, claws or roe first? I came absolutely unprepared and tried to do some last-minute research online but the mobile broadband service was down. So many burning questions unanswered! The shameless stomach was growling. I had to get started. It was me, a pick and a pair of scissors against steamed hairy crab number XXXXXXXXX from the Tai Lake in China. I strategized by digging the remains of my secondary school biology knowledge and mostly logic.
Firstly, I cut the hairy legs. Followed by the mitten claws. Now, I was left with the body. Gosh, this sounds like Natsuo Kirino's Out already! I separated the shells by gripping the upper half and pulled the lower half. It was easier this way as there was a dent on the lower half that could fit the tip of my index finger. With one gentle pull followed by a crack, a molten, golden mass of roe was revealed.
We, the hairy crab virgins, decided that the roe was as rich as a salted egg yolk. I even suggested that it's a crustacean version of the steamed salted egg bun. The flesh was sweet, subtly. The dip of ginger and black vinegar provided a refreshing contrast. A small Chinese cup of ginger tea was served after we were done with the crabs. The Chinese believe that ginger will dissipate the wind accumulated from consuming the cooling hairy crabs. It was one fiery cup of tea, for sure. On average, it took us about 30 minutes to devour the fist-sized crab, which weighed about 200 g, if I recall correctly. The neighbouring table sat a couple attempting 3 (or 4) crabs each. I wonder how long it took them to finish all the crabs.
I think we made the right choice of having the crabs as our first dish. Some prefer to have it last. I'm sure, if served last, we would have been full and less enthusiastic about spending 30 minutes digging for crab meat and roe. And inevitably, some precious parts would have been ignored and wasted.
The rest of the recommended dishes were mostly Cantonese fare. My favourite was the roast duck, which must have been showered with boiling oil, post-roasting, for that extra crisp on the skin. Coupled with well-seasoned and succulent meat, I thought it was fantastic. I wouldn't say that pork cutlets in coffee sauce, sizzling venison with scallion and spinach soup with 3 types of eggs are representative of classic dishes served at Capital but they were still delicious. Perhaps the captain thought that young people like us (how much more shameless can I get?) would prefer more familiar, modern dishes.
With a full and now, quiet stomach, I left Capital with the 6 kg toy set still in tow. I didn't mention earlier that the toy was purchased for work purpose and unrelated to the dinner. I just had to bring it along since I was already in town. The next morning, I carried it through a 500 m walk, 1 MRT and bus ride each before reaching the office. Along the way, I'd also reminisced about the golden roe and roast duck. And that really made the journey less exhausting. You may call me cheesy now.
323 New Bridge Road