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    Wok fried, in dimsums and more, the crustacean gets a festival of its own at The Leela Palace

    If you loved China XO’s crab festival last year at The Leela Palace, you might want to dust off your bibs and line up: the Crab by the Bay special returns for two weeks starting today. Soft shell crabs, black crabs, Alaskan crabs, they’re all there, with a few prawns thrown in for good measure. As I try to ignore the singing crab from The Little Mermaid humming Under The Sea in my head, we embark on a preview of their crab a la carte menu trying a whopping 11 dishes, not counting dessert, almost all of them winners. Our meal begins with the fabulous experiments in dimsum, by the restaurant’s talented dimsum chef Soon Wah Cheong. His creation, the crabmeat hydrangea (Rs 900), arrives, a crispy succulent flower with a ball of meat at its centre. The crabmeat and prawn steamed dimsum (Rs 700) is as transcendent as expected and packs an unexpected but exciting, spicy punch. The flavours of the poached version (Rs 700), served in a bowl of sauce (salty and fiery) are drowned out by said sauce. Of the starters, a satisfyingly dense panko encrusted ball of crabmeat and prawn (Rs 1,650) (sweet and juicy) is a familiar kind of good (the kind that makes you consider trying it with cocktail sauce) while the wok fried black crab in chili butter (Rs 1,650) is so spicy, sweet and buttery it’s almost decadent. The crabmeat asparagus ginger chilli egg soup (Rs 600) offers a different perspective on the meat. Spicy again, the sweetness of the crab is more subdued here. For mains we try the returning favourite, Singapore chili crab (Rs 1,950) that the kitchen has obligingly cracked open so we don’t have to go in elbows deep. The flavours are a variation of the spicy and sweet, set off perfectly by the jasmine rice: the fried mantou (buns) served with it, though delectable, were a wee too rich for me to have with the dish. We also tried a delightful crab claws in sweet and spicy sauce (Rs 1,950) — the combination of sweet and spicy being perhaps an inevitable (this is crab, after all) recurring element over the evening. The stir fried crab meat asparagus with crab roe and egg white sauce (Rs 1,950) is therefore a nice break in the rhythm — the fresh snap of the asparagus an interesting complement to the crabmeat. In all a memorable meal for a pair of crustacean-crazy Chennai ladies.
    Till August 30. Details: 33661234

    Ranjitha Gunasekaran

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