Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Dinner at Geylang: J.B. Ah Meng Kitchen

sign board, Ah Meng Kitchen, Geylang, Singapore
J.B Ah Meng Kitchen
My brother, and my sis-in-law's trip to Singapore was at least partly could be called a foodie's tour (Ada and myself had done such a tour of HK last year). We live to eat rather than eat too live.

Right after our light and music show in Gardens by the Bay, which finished about 8 pm, we caught a taxi to J.B. Ah Meng Kitchen (新山亚明小厨) in Lor 23 Geylang for dinner. Taxi is the quickest and easiest to get there, especially if you have 3 people, it's not more expensive than buses and/or MRTs.

As I'm a Singapore resident for 5 years, usually I was the one making eating recommendation. But this place came from my sis-in-law who suggested this place from her fave food blog that she followed closely (apparently, she had been busy on her homework).

 The Place 
For the non-Singaporean "Lor" in the address is short for "Lorong", which is Malay for "Lane". So "Lor" is equivalent "Ln" in English. Expectedly, Lor 23 is quite short, and so it wasn't hard to locate at all. When you hear of street names like "2nd or 5th Ave", you associate it with NYC, when you hear names like "Lor 21, Lor 13" in Singapore, you know it's located in Geylang.

The seating in the restaurant is limited, most of its tables could be found in the alley outside the premise. It's one of those alfresco dining that tourists associate with SE Asian countries because unless the restaurants have air-conditions, sitting outside is much cooler at night. Geylang has outdoor street eating like this aplenty.

For those who's unfamiliar with Singapore, Geylang is a red-light district (prostitution is legal in Singapore). But Geylang is also known for its abundant choices of street eats like this. When my sis-in-law got very excited about Ah Meng Kitchen in our whatsapp, I told her that this place is located in a red-light district. She said nothing, so I assume she had no issue with it, or that the food blog had blocked her eyes.

While she decidedly enjoyed the food, she was uncomfortable eating there to say the least. I saw nothing untoward or risky or even risqué. There were a couple of tables where uncles in their 55+ were in the companies of a couple of Vietnamese PYTs. The young girls talked to her pimp (judging from their conversations) in Vietnamese. Yes, I understood the content of the conversation. They wouldn't imagine that somebody could understand Vietnamese sat at a table right next to them.

If anything, I found the lonely uncles and their companions livened up the scene (I wouldn't describe it as risqué). Probably because of my interest in people watch. And this is the good place to do that. Apart from this 2 tables, probably anecdotal, this place looks very much like other outdoor street eatery in places like, say, Holland Village (where there're just more ang mohs and fewer lonely uncles).

 The Food 
They have a number of dishes that are different from your usual fares, and worth checking out.

White Pepper Crab (9 / 10)
In general, I prefer chili crab over pepper crab. From past experience, pepper crab could only be described by one word: hot! And no other taste. Chili crab, on the other hand, has sauce that are more nuanced, and interesting. Despite "chili" in its title, it's more sweet than spicy.

And the one thing that diners love about chili crab is their sauce, which is usually in ample amount. This is because the ample sauce ("gravy" would be a more accurate word) provides diners as dip for their buns (or mantou 馒头).

I explained this to her. She explained that this is the very reason why she doesn't like chili crab. She doesn't like crab drown in sauce. Needless to say, I have reservation about this white pepper chili crab based on my previous experience.

While it isn't as spicy as some restaurants, which is good, I still refer chili crab. Some restaurants make pepper crabs to the point of burning and numbing your mouth.  The meat is fresh and bouncy. As far as pepper crab goes, this is the best I've tried.

J.B. San Lou Meehoon (9 / 10)
This dish may look unassuming. To some, it may even look yucky (few may find it yummy). Don't worry, the light was dimmer than this photo suggests. This is their signature dish, which is said to be created by Ah Meng. I certainly hadn't eaten this before today. Its taste likes no other fried beehoon (Chinese vermicelli) I've eaten before. The typical fried beehoon (or meehoon) dish is drown in gravy, making their supposedly crispy fried beehoon goes soft and soggy. This meehoon is dry and crunchy. It was so good, we decided to order take-away for our other fussy foodie, Ada, to try. She liked it, too.

At $7, it's not cheap for this eatery. When it's this good, you're more willing fork out extra cash.

Garlic Chili Clams (8.5 / 10)
I would like to know where they get their seafood, which is fresh and good quality. These lala (local name for "clam") are quite fresh and sweet tasting, free of fishy smell.

Overall Score:  9 / 10. With people watch as a side dish (or show) on the house, it's likely that I will return for the meehoon and other dishes I have't tried. And I might walk around the Geylang area for some colourful (mostly red) neon lights photography.

While the place is setup as a budget eat, but its prices aren't cheap. Don't think of it as paying higher prices, but you simply have expensive tastes.

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