MUST TRIES: Sri Lankan crab pan-tossed with creamy crab roe-flecked beehoon and Filipino-imported steamed flower clams
When was the last time you visited Macpherson Road?
Me? Not in the last 15 to 20 years.
But, of late, a shophouse unit at Macpherson has caught my attention for the ravenous traffic that it’s been drawing.
If you’ve never heard of Ming Kee Seafood (“Ming Kee”), it’s time you get to know it. The hordes of families, food aficionados and bloggers flocking to Ming Kee tells the success story of a Chinese restaurant that started life humbly as a tze char stall at a kopi tiamin the staid neighbourhood of Macpherson 11 years ago.
Guiness spare ribs
Since 2004, however, Ming Kee had upgraded to its current location: a bigger, air-conditioned restaurant on the ground floor of a shophouse fronting the Macpherson thoroughfare. With the move, this stretch of Macpherson has sprung to life; even a certain local dignitary has graced this restaurant more than once, as evidenced by the photos that adorn the wall.
But this ‘no airs’ restaurant remains uniquely boutique. The air-conditioned indoor dining area framed by champagne drapes and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, sits about 10 tables comfortably. By nightfall, however, the bright red fabric-swathed tables spill outdoors to the shelter of permanently pitched tents. If anything, it serves as a grim reminder of the need to book your tables early to avoid ‘no air-con’ disappointment.
You only need to visit Ming Kee once to understand its lure. Sure, some may opt to dine like a king for over $100 per head with Ming Kee’s top-of-the-range offerings like Buddha jumps over the wall ($688), treasure pot of fish maw, sea cucumber and abalone ($350), polka dotted high-finned grouper ($266 per kg) and a plethora of pricey sharks fin and abalone dishes. But it is equally possible to have a feast on Ming Kee’s moderately priced menu of Chinese classics without breaking the bank.
The key to unlocking your palate of pleasures at Ming Kee is to keep your focus squarely on the time-tested trio of star-rated dishes. You can never go wrong with the gargantuan triple-cooked (braised, steamed and then pan-fried) Sri Lankan crab pan-tossed with creamy crab roe-flecked beehoon ($45 per kg). The golden brown hunks of Guinness-infused spare ribs ($14) beaming with heart-warming porky flavours will also win the adoration of meat lovers. But leading the pack are the unrivalled morsels of Filipino-imported steamed flower clams crowned with finely-minced sautéed garlic in a light soya broth ($40 each), or, for half the price but no compromise on quality, steamed Malaysian mussels with the same addictive garlic concoction ($20).
Those who stray from the signature trio may be duly rewarded with some exceptional discoveries–like we did with the or nee (yam paste) dessert, an outstanding plate of mashed yam with golden pumpkin and utterly soft gingko nuts. But you may also get some less fruitful finds—our thick-cut stir-fried venison with ginger and onions is a case in point.
556 Macpherson Road
Opening hours: Daily: 12pm-3pm, 5-11pm
Evelyn Chen traded her near-solitaire frequent flyer miles from her jet setting corporate days for a critic’s pen, and has been eating, drinking and sleeping on the job ever since. She writes about food and travel and sits on the S.E.Asian judging panel of the San Pellegrino World 50 Best. Evelyn’s gourmet jaunts have been published in Conde Nast Traveller, Destin Asian and The Independent. Her article on Singapore’s fine dining scene won her the Mont Blanc Food Writer of the year award at the World Gourmet Summit in 2010.
* inSing.com pays for the meals at the places we review.