Saturday, 7 July 2012

Pairing Wine with Some of Singapore's Best Seafood - Old Lai Huat, Rangoon Road

I knew this was going to be tough.  Finding a wine to match some of Singapore’s most robustly spicy (and delicious) seafood would be a challenge worthy of any palate.

The venue was Old Lai Huat Seafood on Rangoon Road.  It doesn’t make any sense to me, but this place is always quiet except on Saturday and Sunday evenings, on which it heaves with large family groups all night.  Awesome food at great prices; what more do people want?  For me, Lai Huat’s signature sambal belacan pomfret and sole are amongst the very best seafood preparations in Singapore today.  The fish is very good, with its fins and tail fried to a blissfully edible crunch, but it is the intensely fragrant, insanely addictive topping of minced dried shrimp fried with belacan (fermented prawn paste), chillies, ginger and lemongrass that elevates it to a level of rare divinity.

It was also the source of some apprehension looking ahead to this lunch.  In certain exotic species of spider, the female eats its mate after copulation, and I was sure the sambal would similarly murder and destroy any wine that tried to have its way with it.

Well, how wrong I was (and glad to be so!).  Before we get to the wines, here are the dishes we enjoyed.  Apart from the noodles, I typically order the rest of the dishes when I visit, and they were just as good today as ever.

(a)    Fried Noodles - A couple of us skipped breakfast so this was an early order.  This was a wetter style, cooked with chilli, tomato and egg.  Quite good.

(b)   Crispy Tofu – Housemade, this tofu has the texture as if it were mixed with minced fish or fish paste.  Best hot with little sliced cili padi.

(c)    Sambal Belacan Pomfret (pic) and Sole – The main reason why I keep being drawn back to this place, and a good enough reason to keep me coming back, even on its own.  I preferred the pomfret today; it has less flesh so it cooks more evenly, but it does not have as much texture and flesh as the sole.  Regardless, both were tremendous, more than worthy signature dishes of the house.

(d)   Black Pepper Crayfish – If you peer in carefully, you will see the sauce of this dish is pretty much toasted grinded black pepper, with a little oil in which the crayfish was cooked, i.e. it packs some serious punch.  The crayfish was still sweet and juicy but occasionally borders on overcooked, so this tends not to be one of my regular orders.

(e)   Yam Ring – This is unashamed mashed yam goodness.   The chef at Dragon Phoenix claims to have invented yam ring, but this is a far more rustic, heartier and in my view, far superior version.  Deep, sweet and comforting; the kind of food I could eat all night.

(f)     VegetablesKai Lan stir-fried with oyster sauce and garlic.  I’m not a big vegetable eater, but the ones here are always fresh and well-fried to retain their crunch.  They are also generous with the garlic, which puts them on the side of the angels in my book.

And tasting notes on the wines:

(a)    2010 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Moscato – I blinded this bottle to eliminate any prejudice against this mass-produced, lightly spritzy, low alcohol frivolity of a wine, which I happen to enjoy and believe ideal for Singapore’s climate and food.  On opening, it revealed some surprising petrol and mineral complexity which threw us off, but once it settled down, it was light, fruity and floral enough to refresh our palates between mouthfuls.

(b)  2010 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett – youthful and off-dry with a nice core of lemon marmalade and citrus peel.  Delicious lightly chilled with vibrant acidity to cut through the aggressive, slightly oily sambal.

(c)  1992 Farnito Vin Santo di Chianti – a delightful blend of trebbiano and malvasia.  Nice oxidated character, notes of oak, toffee and cloves.  Enough depth and richness to avoid being overwhelmed by the chilli.

Wine Selection for the Day

And the last pleasant surprise of the afternoon?  The bill, which came in at a measly $114 (remember we had two large fish and a serve of crayfish).  For that amount, we fed five adults, including three gluttonous males, and had enough leftovers for another meal for two.

Old Lai Huat is currently running a lunch promotion – 10% discount on all dishes (except for rice, noodles, etc.) including weekends and public holidays.  If you are looking for some serious old-school seafood cze char, Old Lai Huat should be near the top of your list.

223 Rangoon Road
Singapore 218460 (just off the CTE Rangoon Road turn-off)
BYO Policy: BYO welcome, no corkage fees.  However, Old Lai Huat does not stock wine glasses of any description so please bring your own glasses also.  For a more comprehensive list of Singapore restaurants that allow BYO and their corkage policies, please click here.
Tel: +65 6292 7375

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