I'd seen a friend's frequent (and tantalizing) facebook posts about JB Ah Meng, a cze char eatery in Geylang. As soon as I could gather the troops, we trudged on down to ever "colourful" Geylang for dinner.
JB Ah Meng is located in one of the busier parts of Geylang, where heavy foot traffic guarantees a PG-13 people-watching travelling show. My littlest brother spent most of dinner transfixed by the various "working girl transactions" going on around us, while we were "entertained" by the occasional sight of a rat scurrying away into the drains flanking the sidewalk. For those keen on keeping their dinner down, my advice is to avoid looking at the ground, or at the other tables, or at other people around you. Heck, just keep your eye on your dinner or your dinner companions.
For a cze char joint (where service usually ranges from the indifferent to the surly), service was surprisingly pleasant. The lady proprietor was smiley, chatty and accommodating, an uncommon trait of eateries of the like. Food-wise, JB Ah Meng passed muster, but it was unmemorable. There are famed cze char joints in the vicinity like No Signboard Seafood, or Penang Seafood Restaurant that'll take first charge over the discerning tastebud. Looking back, I think, the main drawback of this humble eatery is the lack of a segregated dining area or restaurant space. Patrons were seated at tables strewn along the common five-foot-way and the heavy public foot traffic made for quite a disruptive meal.
The paper-crisp Deep Fried Fish Skin ($12), a refined version of a local snack, fish keropok, started off the dinner right as an addictive nibbler.
We preferred dipping the crackling in the piquant but tongue-numbingly spicy sambal chilli instead of the Thai-style sweet chilli dip accompanying the fish skin.
The 3 Delicacy Beancurd ($12), loaded with enoki and black mushrooms, pork mince and cuttlefish for a umami touch, was slathered in an unctuous gravy.
My family didn't quite like the Salted Egg Prawn Ball ($20). The sweet accents of the salted egg yolk batter didn't quite sit right with them. I liked it though, especially the sweet corn kernels that dotted the bouncy prawns.
The White Pepper Crabs (3 for $40) were fairly decent, albeit small. Which made picking at it a highly unproductive venture. But the dismal size was (almost) compensated by its freshness and the sweetish, garlicky and subtly peppery sauce. I daresay the sauce is on par with No Signboard Seafood's exceptional rendition.
The innocuous-looking JB San Lou Meehoon ($7), a flattened pancake-esque mess of rice vermicelli, was imbued with a smoky char and rich seafood-based stock. Laced with egg scramble, diced prawns and cuttlefish, and a layer of greasy stir-fried greens under the pile, this was pretty darn good.If there was one thing I'll be back to JB Ah Meng for, this'd be it.
JB Ah Meng
New Good Place Eating House
2 Lor 23 Geylang
Tel: 6741 2418
Open daily from 5pm to 3am