Fish farm and wholesaler Ah Hua Kelong has opened its first restaurant, Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong at Haji Lane, sharing the premises with the hipster cocktail bar Bar Stories.
Ah Hua Kelong is a fish farm located off Changi, farming and harvesting groupers, snappers, golden pomfrets, seabasses, mussels, clams, flower crabs and sea snails. They have a hawker stall at Bedok Marketplace and a kiosk at Pasarbella, but this one is their first restaurant.
The menu is simple with only 10 items: 5 “Small Plates” and 5 “Big Plates.” All except one dish use seafood as their main ingredients. If you come in a group of 6, you probably can eat everything. The menu also changes from time to time, and we were informed that the menu would change soon.
Locally harvested XL clams (4 pcs, $12) are topped with burnt miso and butterscotch. It is sweet, but I don’t know if it’s XL or worth the money.
The seaweed on butter prawns (5 pcs, $16) brings out the sweetness of the crustacean.
The crispy squids ($12) are really lovely. They come from fresh, not frozen, squids, and have an excellent chewy texture. The batter fluffs up, but it is thin and tasty, sprinkled with chilli powder, and it doesn’t overwhelm the sweetness of the squid.
Almost every table ordered the curry mussels ($16 with mantou or $18 with pasta). They use a mix of “male” mussels, which are red, and white “female” ones, like the colors of the Singapore flag! 🇸🇬🇸🇬🇸🇬 The female ones are usually more tender.
But to be honest, I can’t tell the difference between the male and female. The two or three I tried were plump and very tender. The curry is good too, the dry kind, but I would prefer the curry to have more depth and to be spicier.
“En Papillote” in the black grouper en papillote ($26) means “in paper.” Usually salmon is wrapped in parchment paper and then it is baked. But here, they use black grouper, which their kelong rears. It sits on top of glass noodles in a light soy sauce broth with la-la, much like the Hong Kong style of steamed fish.
I like the firm flesh of the fish au naturel, indicating its freshness, although it is bland and I would prefer it to have more seasoning.
One thing I would like to see improve is the service. The person in charge of Ah Hua is friendly and informative and sincere, but because Ah Hua shares the premises with Bar Stories, the two bartenders were grumpy; their faces black like stormy days. Even the ladies at the table besides ours said to the bartender, “Why so serious? Smile.” The dark mood of the bartenders affected our enjoyment of the food.
The food reminds me of Jiakpalang, a mod sin restaurant which reinterprets cze char food. But Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong does the opposite of Jiakpalang: Scaled tries to reinterpret the seafood served at cze char but they strip it down to basic elements, rather than dressing them up as Jiakpalang does it. With super fresh seafood, you don’t really have to do any fancy cooking. In time, and with experience and the effort of the Ah Hua guy, I predict that Scaled will be immensely successful and the food will be better than it is now.
We spent $142 for three persons, including two cocktails. (I am having gout! I can’t drink.)
Tip: SMS them for reservations.
Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong
55 Haji Lane Singapore 189248
tel: +65 9830 0117
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Written by A. Nathanael Ho.