I come from Mumbai, India… where seafood is not really a delicacy, but a staple diet! Fresh prawns, fish, crabs, etc. are quite easily available. And when you have an amazing cook right at home, venturing out to restaurants to enjoy seafood is a rarity. In fact, I have always maintained that I have had the best seafood right in my mom’s kitchen. That was until mom faced some strong competition… from Jumbo seafood, and that’s saying a lot. Therefore, if there is one restaurant in Singapore I have taken every single of my visitors’ to, irrespective of their nationalities, food preferences or cultural backgrounds, it has to be Jumbo Seafood.
The first thing that you observe when you walk into a Jumbo Seafood restaurant is the bright orange colour scheme with tiny crab caricature. The bright ambiance of the place sets the tone for the gourmet seafood journey you are about to embark upon. One caveat… getting a table at any of the Jumbo Seafood outlets, without a reservation, especially on weekends is a near impossibility. Miraculously, even if you do manage a table, chances are the table is an outdoor seating. And trust me, enjoying hot and spicy seafood delights in the heat of Singapore can be, to say the least, unpleasant. Conversely, enjoying dinner outdoorsy may not be such a bad idea, especially if it’s been a rainy day. Either ways, reserve your table… it’s better than being disappointed, especially considering the aroma outside the restaurant is just as tempting!
Having said that, let’s turn straight to the menu. You can find pretty much any fish or shellfish on the menu, cooked in local Singaporean or Hong Kong style. Here’s my pick of the most interesting and signature dishes, you just cannot miss.
Chilled coconut water: While Jumbo Seafood, about to enjoy the delightful food, a personal recommendation is, ditch the alcohol. Especially beer. It will just fill your stomach. Instead try the different delicacies. My personal suggestion, opt for a cold fresh coconut. The cool water along with the sweet tender coconut is the perfect companion for the food.
Deep fried prawns with cereals: Yes they are deep fried, and yes they are oily… but you will forget all that when you eat the first morsel of this delectable dish. With just the right amount of spice, and the zing added by the chillies, it’s a unique prawn dish. Specifically ask for deshelled prawns, so that the cereals cover the prawn meat.
Cheese baked prawns: I never thought cheese and prawns went together, unless they were part of a cheese based pasta… but the cheese baked jumbo prawns, well they work and how! You can order the jumbo prawns per piece basis… and one prawn is good enough for two, unless you want to enjoy it one a piece!
Scallops wrapped in yam rings: I am not a huge scallop fan, but again, scallops cooked just right, can be an exciting delight. This is a dish for the scallop lovers. It’s definitely different.
While Jumbo offers variety of seafood main course, it is highly recommended that you just concentrate on the crab. My favourite crab recipe:
The Jumbo Chilli Crab: It might be called the chilli crab, and the gravy might be orange-red in colour, but the chilli crab is in fact hot and sweet to taste. It is quite hot for someone not used to such generous use of chilli, but that’s the fun. Soft, perfectly cooked crab in the savoury chilli gravy! It’s fun eating it, for it can get quite messy. You cannot eat it without getting down and messy! And that’s exactly why you have the disposable aprons, with a cute picture of the crab on it. You eat this gravy and the crab once, and you will come back for more. The size of the Sri Lankan crab starts from 900 gms, which is good enough for two persons. You can wash down the crabs with their steamed or fried buns, the perfect companion.
Pepper Crab: If you do not prefer your crabs to have a sweetish flavour at all, opt for the pepper crabs… the real difference between the chilli and the pepper crabs is, chilli crabs come with the special gravy, while pepper crabs are dry, and well less messy to eat.
Pepper lobster: Just like the crabs, you can opt for Pepper lobsters as well. In lobsters, you get two varieties. (1) The local lobster, which is around 600 gms and costs you approximate S$150. (2) The Australian lobster, which is around 1 kg+ and costs you approximately S$250. I love lobsters, but I would highly recommend the crabs over the lobsters. For one, it is their speciality. And two, I personally find the lobsters unnecessarily pricey, compared to the crabs.
Mango Sago with Pomelo: If you still think you can manage a dessert, then the Chinese special mango sago with pomelo is a great option! The sweet and sour fruit on an icy, sweet syrup base can be a perfect way to finish your meal.
A few pointers:
- If you are a meat lover, there are a lot of other places you can satisfy your taste buds. At Jumbo Seafood, stick to seafood. After all it is in their name.
- While the staff is quite helpful and sympathetic toward a vegetarian, it’s not a place for you. You can pass your time sipping the coconut or nibbling on the stir-fried broccoli, but the options are strictly limited and at best ordinary!
- It is a place best visited in a group (at least 4 people), if you wish to enjoy different delicacies. The main course portions are quite large, and a sizable group allows you to order a variety of dishes. The chilli crab is at least 1kg in weight… and quite tough for 2 to finish, if you have ordered starters, sides and dessert.
- If you are the clean picky eater who hates to use your fingers, crabs may not be for you, for here you need to deshell the meat yourself and it is a very messy affair. That’s why you have the cute aprons!
Jumbo Seafood has 5 outlets across the island of Singapore. If you love crowds, the noise, Jumbo @ Clarke Quay is for you. Want a quiet evening with family or friends? Head off to Dempsey Hill or East Coast. But make sure you reserve your table, or you are in for a long wait!
How much will it cost you: That’s depends… I do not have one answer for this. A meal for two, if you stick to chilli crab and a starter with drinks and rice / buns, you will shell out around S$ 100 to S$ 150.
The Verdict: I just compared the quality of seafood to my mom’s home cooked food… I cannot give a better compliment than that! A must try for all seafood eaters…
Rating: ***** (hell ya!)