Ah Orh Seafood Restaurant – 115 Jalan Bukit Merah #01-1627
Teochew cuisine is as nude and stripped down as Chinese food goes. Only the freshest ingredients and perfected cooking techniques are tolerated in this unforgiving style as the largely subtle sauces do little to conceal mistakes made. At Ah Orh Seafood Restaurant, the market-fresh seafood is bought daily and displayed openly as proof. Regulars point at the 'exhibits' they want instead of consulting the menu, gladly paying around the $137 I did for uncompromising quality.
The lightly-dressed Sea Snails ($8) were chewy and meaty. Extracting the shellfish was almost as fun as eating it dipped in a garlicky chilli sauce containing a generous dose of vinegar.
The Mussels in Black Bean Sauce ($8) were soft and lightly creamy specimens. The sauce was as robust as they come in this style but was still quite subtle with relatively delicate accents of ginger and chilli.
Teochew Style Seabass ($35) would be the archetypal dish of this cuisine. The extremely fresh fish with delicate flakes of moist and delicate yet firm flesh was complemented simply in a light broth flavoured with salted vegetables, ginger and the odd tomato. For added oomph, one may opt to add a dash of a fiery sauce of salted soybeans and chilli padi.
The Stuffed Beancurd ($8) was so soft that it tested the limits of my chopstick skills to pick up a piece without it breaking. The thick, creamy disks had thoroughly absorbed the flavours of the minced pork topping it, any excessive porcine attributes balanced by spring onions.
Leather Jackets ($25) had firm, meaty flesh with an almost buttery richness similar to pomfret. The small fish were excellent in the same sauce as the mussels with the added tang of bitter gourd slices.
Chilli Slipper Lobsters ($30) are an ingenious alternative to crab that I vastly favour due to considerably less fuss and mess. This was the only strongly-flavoured dish with the sweet crustacean meat napped in a thick, viscous nectar of garlic, tomato paste, egg, chilli and sugar, thickened and rendered gorgeously glossy with potato starch.
Braised Duck ($10) is a signature item that few tables go without, and for good reason. The thick, meaty slices had virtually no visible fat but were rendered moist in a beautiful soy-based braising liquid. The tender meat is excellent with a piquant sauce of chillies and garlic.
As always, I ended on a sweet note with Yam Paste ($10). The thick, fudgy mush was smooth, rich and wonderfully sugary with delightful depth accorded by a very crucial and very sinful ingredient: lard.