I'm always on the lookout for good cze char places, paying particular attention to those not too far off the reservation. Sek Tong Gai made a blip on my radar, when a friend of a friend posted his seafood feast of a dinner on social media. The Alaskan king crab noodles had caught my eye, and as soon as I could, I gathered the troops, together with andmorefood. We needed the critical mass to order loads.
We were surprised to find Sek Tong Gai barely filled with diners on a Friday evening; it appears that the restaurant has remained a hidden gem. It's astonishing because the food was outstanding. Like Best-of-2016, impressively good. Oh well, better for me that they stay unknown; no worries about making advanced reservations at the itsy bitsy-ish eatery.
Prices are a smidge on the premium range, but in view of the standard of food, I say it's money well spent. Portions for most dishes are on the petite side, so despite the massive spread below, we actually thought, post-dinner, that we could have polished off an entire Alaskan king crab (instead of a half serving), together with a fish option. A big plus: corkage is free, so you'll find many customers lugging their expensive vintages to dinner. Another bonus: they're open till 1am, which makes Sek Tong Gai an excellent supper venue.
The highlight of dinner, and the numero uno must-try, was the Braised Alaskan King Crab with Bee Hoon ($298 for half of a 1.7kg bugger). The noodles were insanely delicious. Steeped in that sumptuous stock, the rich depth of flavour imbued into the rice vermicelli was balanced with fresh leek, onions of the fried and stewed styles, juicy black chinese mushrooms, and shredded cabbage, while the crab lent an exquisite sweetness. Distinctively more elegant and definitely more worthwhile, than the always crowded Long Ji.
A variation of the above, the Boston Lobster Stewed with Vermicelli ($166) was a little less sweet, but amazingly nuanced in its delicate sweetness.
We also had a quarter portion of the Alaskan King Crab Baked with Salted Egg Yolk ($126), which was sinfully indulgent. The salted egg yolk burnished a grainy sumptuousness to the sweet flesh of the crab.
A signature, the Hong Kong Kailan ($12), is done two-ways for a modern twist of the standard stir-fried green. The stems are blanched, and the leaves are fried to a crisp, then the mound of them is slathered in a delicate soy and oil sauce, and showered with lashings of fried shallots. Beautiful contrast in textures, robust flavours. No excuse not to eat your vegetables now.
The Sauteed French Beans ($8) was imbued with an excellent wok hei, crunchy and delicious.
The Steamed Prawns with Egg White & Ginger ($22 for 300gm at $7/100gm) was strikingly polished. The prawns were sparkling fresh, its subtle sweetness complemented by an incredibly nuanced broth. I've to confess, I licked the plate clean off.
Another must-try, the Claypot Soon Hock with Minced Meat & Beancurd ($97), speckled with shimeiji mushrooms, was earthy, having been infused liberally with bulbs of roasted garlic. Exquisite!
The Beancurd & Seafood Claypot ($18), laden with plump prawns, springy squid, and fleshy fish slices, was subtly spiked with chilli for a punchy lift.
A striped down version, the Plain Deep Fried Beancurd ($8) was sided by a thick sweet-spicy sauce. Simplicity at its finest.
A recommendation that was very well appreciated, the Char-Grilled Pork ($22 for small) was scrumptious. Juicy and luscious, the marinade was at once smoky, sweet, tangy and delicious. A must-try.
The San Bei Chicken ($22 for small), or "three cup" chicken with equal parts sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine, beautifully slicked with a stickily sweet and spicy glaze, was succulent, and imbued with an aromatic smoky essencce.
The only disappointment was the Sliced Beef with Spicy Sauce & Dried Shrimp ($24). The seasoning was on point, a layered heat of dried chillis, dried shrimp, fried garlic, and curry leaves, but the beef was the culprit. It lacked heft and freshness, so while the beef was meltingly fatty, the heady spice failed to mask its inferior quality.
The Fried Ee-Fu Noodles ($8) was one of the very best renditions I've ever had. A rich stock had steeped into each silky strand, lightened with fresh chives and oodles of straw mushrooms.
Sek Tong Gai
47 Tanglin Halt Road
Tel: 6474 4547
Open Wednesdays to Mondays from 6pm to 1am; Closed on Tuesdays