When I first met the late Anthony Bourdain 17 years ago, I did not know who he was then- just another food TV host asking for my time on their show. I obliged but location had to be my call. I arrived late and saw this 6 footer of giant peering through the live seafood aquariums at Sin Huat Seafood and Tony looked like a big kid ogling in a toy shop. He pointed to a sentence in my Makansutra food guide, that “food on screen and print, is an oxymoron, it must be devoured..”. We sort of hit off after that moment. The last dish was Chef Danny’s signature Crab Beehoon. Bourdain took a bite, lit up, and did his signature monologue about lives and loves, gushing how he would not mind if the world ended right after that meal. Then he turned the microphone on me, as if I was all ready to outdo his piece to camera, so I said “why do you talk so much when there’s food on the table? My mother always told me to eat then talk, cos’ you never know if your next is coming.”. We became buddies after that one and he wrote a whole chapter about it in his Nasty Bits book. I dedicate this review to Bourdain as this was his favourite haunt in Singapore. A few of us miss him to we gathered for a meal here recently to honour him. This is the $700 meal Bourdain and I had back in 2001.
When the Black Bean Scallops came, Bourdain was slurping it up like man on mission in an oyster bar, one at a time and oblivious to the moment. It was fresh and the frehly chopped chunky garlic bits in the blended black bean sauce was seductive. The “MRT Prawns" was a nickname Makansutra coined, and the row of steamed king prawns doused in wine, soy and overflowing with garlic bits was divine. Chef Sau D Rosario from Philippines fell silent as he tore into the fresh crustacean, crunchy to the bite. When the Chicken Essence Frogs came, 6 little bottles of the essence was emptied over the fresh wine steamed bullfrogs. I remember Bourdain was taken aback as he hated frogs (something not very French about him), but after that dish, he was a convert. Every morsel has springy clean taste and texture- signs that it’s very fresh and perfectly steamed. I don’t think many chefs can Steam a Sotong like Danny can, done simply in wine, garlic and soy (you get a sense now that garlic is the chef’s main agent). It was like Danny was paying a tribute to the integrity of the creature. The Seafood Otah and Kailan greens came- one was thick chunky spicy and hand made and the vegetable was perfectly wok seared to retain texture and sweetness. But these were mere sidehows.
The grand finale was the Crab Beehoon, a two crab portion can set one back by $180, depending on size of the giant Sri Lankan crabs. First timer Benny Seteo of Meathouse was over the moon. Sweet, savoury, rich, meaty, aromatic and wok skill, are all terms we use to describe this signature of Danny. May this culinary sensation never cease to exist. Bourdain and I need to repeat this in our next lives.
Sin Huat Seafood (coffeeshop)
659 , Geylang Road (Junction of Lor 35)
6.30pm -1am daily