168 Sea Food Palace.

There was a positive review of the Chill Crab at 168 by LT’s Gourmand so I decided, perhaps ill-advisedly, to take a Singaporean visitor to try it out.

It wasn’t entirely foolhardy – taking a Singaporean (Land of the Chilli Crab) to try the same preparation in Sri Lanka because we were going to the source – apparently the owners of 168 are Singaporean crab exporters – and I cant possibly take every visitor to MOC or I would be be bankrupt in weeks… no, days.

So we tuk-tuked off to Sea View avenue off Galle Road..

The restaurant’s interior falls into an happy place between Sri Lankan Chinese (Flower Drum) and mainland Chinese (Fortune Boat). The ambiance, too, is a hybrid – authentic Chinese pop blaring in the background as local-male patrons armed with large bottles of whisky discuss business.

We ordered 800 grams of crab at Rs. 360 per 100 grams and – of course – also ordered some hot butter cuttlefish. Our greens were a lightly flavored sweet potato leaf tossed with garlic. The food arrived quickly and the crab looked promising – a handsome specimen with large claws and lots of meat. At first sight I had high hopes for this local chilli crab contender. However, the Singaporean ignoring the gleaming crustacean went straight for the thick red sauce and the verdict: poor to mediocre.

A pity, because a chilli crab is defined by its sauce and this standard sweet gloop that seemed to have been poured over the crab at the last moment wasn’t going to cut it. The dish wasn’t infused with a rich crab flavour, it didn’t incorporate the crucial crab roe and the largest transgression – it lacked chilli – a fairly crucial ingredient.

Leaving the sauce aside the crab was good – meaty, firm flesh and good value for the weight, and the other dishes were strong. So while my attempt to out Singapore the Singaporean failed – 168 is still a worthy spot for dinner and next time I’ll order crabs in another style.

But for now I’ll admit I haven”t found a Chilli crab that has clawed its way over Singapore’s offerings. Any suggestions?

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