I've resisted going to Sin Huat for the longest time, in no small part due to the chef's reputation as a food nazi. Tales of the chef's notoriously foul moods preceded the Bib Gourmand-awardee, and while I don't expect good service at coffee shops, I draw the line at being abused. Also, I'd heard horror stories of inordinately long waits for a table and food. Both points were enough to put me off dining at Sin Huat, purportedly serving the "single best dish" notwithstanding.
Then a friend alerted me to the fact that the Anthony Bourdain favourite was relatively quiet these days, and the chef had mellowed over the years. So we trotted on down to Geylang for dinner one Friday evening, see what the fuss was all about.
Despite the tip, we were still stunned to find the coffee shop bare of diners. On a Friday night. It was so devoid of customers we actually thought, for a split second, that we hit up the wrong address. The dimly lit restaurant, obviously a supporter of the save electricity movement, was quite the gloomy sight. We kept expecting the crowds to fill in as the night went by, but by 9pm, we were convinced that this was the sad state bad reviews had gotten the restaurant to.
It didn't help that the food was terribly underwhelming, after all that hype. I dined with a fellow crab lover, and the fact that we didn't finish our crabs spoke volumes. For background, we each can polish off a 1kg crab on our own.
That said, service was surprisingly pleasant. The chef, a one-man show who doubled up as waiter taking our orders, even cracked a smile. The years have definitely cultivated some graciousness.
The Crab Bee Hoon ($168 for 2kg crabs) was the biggest disappointment, mostly because the crabs were awfully mushy and woefully lacking in sweetness. The legs, which I usually love, were mushy, and only the claws were barely passable with flaky slightly juicy meat. That said, the noodles were sublime, having soaked up all that seafresh sweetness of a crab stock, and punched up with leeks, chillis, and mushrooms. We wiped up every last strand of the noodles, but left most of the crab untouched.
The Otak ($12) was the surprise gem of the night, with fleshy chunks of fish embedded within luscious spiced paste. The best otak I've ever had, bar none.
The Garlic Steamed Prawns ($63) were excellent, if a little overpriced. Flayed in half, the prawns were bouncy, which sweetness was highlighted by the caramelised garlic.
The Scallops ($37.50) were forgettable and middling, sinewy in texture and delicate flavour overwhelmed by the rich black bean garlic sauce.
Ditto for the Stir Fried Kailan ($10), which was crunchy but missing out on an integral smoky accent.
Sin Huat Eating House
659 Geylang Road
Open daily from 6pm to 12midnight
Tel: 6744 9755