Ibrahim's Fatty Crab offers great crab dishes, writes Ewe Paik Leong
ALASKAN, French and Australian mud crabs lurk at the bottom of a bubbling tank. In another tank, there are red snappers, jade perch, sea bass (siakap) and tilapia.
I am at Ibrahim's Fatty Crab, owned by Marzuki Mohamed, a corner space hemmed between stone walls and pillars of sand colour at Ampang Avenue. The dark wood tables which are covered with blue cloth and the orange plastic chairs spill onto the sidewalk, conveying an ambience of casual dining.
Overhead, fans rotate to create an airy atmosphere and, at tables, the sounds of shells cracking and slurping suggest that diners are having a wonderful time. The menu is simple and divided into crab, fish, egg, chicken, prawn, squid, fried rice, beancurd, noodles and vegetables.
From the crab tank comes my Mongolian-style crab which is the restaurant's signature dish. The crab sits in a pool of rust-coloured gravy and is decorated with ribbons of greens.
Extracting the meat takes a bit of effort but it's worth it. A gravy-drenched piece of meat enters my mouth, ricocheting flavours in succession.
First, comes the sweetness of the crab, then the blush of sesame and finally, the hit of pepper. The creaminess of the gravy contrasts well with the fibrous texture of the crab meat. Beyond the Mongolian-style, other options available are sweet and sour, black pepper, salted egg yoke and kam heong.
Next, I savour a spoonful of kangkong belacan with white rice. The crunch of the kangkong echoes in my ears and the blandness of the rice allows the belacan's fishy-prawny flavour to hit its peak.
The rice grains offer a mild el dente resistance to my teeth. Not so successful is the fried squid ring. Every squid ring that bounces off my teeth is dull and rubbery.
The aroma of ginger heralds the arrival of steamed tilapia on an aluminium platter sitting atop a candle-heated stand. This dish ticks all the boxes: The warm tang of ginger juxtaposed against the freshness of the flaky fish meat is like a slap on the cheek and a shoulder rub simultaneously. The mantle of scallions and parsley leaves atop the fish is unnecessary.
To explore the menu thoroughly, I return for a second time. This time, the tables are covered with red cloth, making the place look like a a Chinese restaurant.
In a claypot are tossed prawns, squids, fish balls, chicken slices, kaffir-lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, tomatoes and whatnots, simmered and served as my tom yam seafood.
A slurp of the soup registers a mix of tangy and sweet as well as lemony and hot, though not fiery. Despite being infused with spices, the prawns still maintain the aromatic edge of the ocean.
The squids fare better this time: They're tender, not rubbery. The fish balls almost squeak between my molars. Overall, there is a good play of textures among the ingredients.
Jostling for attention with the tom yam seafood is tom yam fried rice. Though a simple dish, it attests to the kitchen staff's mastery of the wok. Cooked with home-made tom yam paste, the rice grains are greaseless and deliver a mild jolt from the bright spices.
Finally, I dig into the Hokkien mee. An insufficiently hot wok brings down this dish as the flavour is less-than-robust and smokeless. Nevertheless, it passes muster.
This erratic wok work suggests that more than one cook is in the kitchen. Conclusion: This spot is now pinned on my mental map as one of the great crab restaurants in the city.
Ibrahim's Fatty Crab
WhereNo. 18, Jalan Avenue 1, Ampang Avenue, Ampang
HOURS5pm to 1am. Closed on Monday
PICKMongolian-style crab, tom yam seafood
PAYRM10 to RM100 per person
SERVICEEngaging and charming
I SAYMust try