Old Bailey welcomes the start of hairy crab season with an eight-course tasting menu ($988/person) dedicated to highlighting the best parts of the hearty little crustaceans. Revered for their addictively creamy roe and delicate, sweet flesh, the hairy-pawed crabs are at their fattest every autumn, with the harvest season starting in September/October for male crabs and November for females. This year’s harvest, however, hasn’t yielded well in the famed Yangcheng Lake of Jiangsu Province in China, so Old Bailey has opted to instead import the crabs from Hokkaido, Japan.
The menu, created by Yangzhou native chef Wong Kwan Man, will be on offer until December 2019 (or while supplies last).
Our meal started with a trio of appetisers:marinated egg in fermented rice wine, jellyfish and cucumber dressed in aged vinegar and fresh local bean curd sheets tossed in fragrant sesame oil.
Individual bamboo steamers of Ibérico pork xiao long bao infused with hairy crab roe arrived next. The umami-laced sweetness of the crab-roe soup paired well with the sweet vinegar that was served alongside.
A nourishing bowl of braised imperial bird’s nest with hairy crab roe, dotted with aged vinegar. Perfect for autumn days.
A hairy crab feast isn’t complete without fresh steamed crab, and the tasting menu comes with a 210-gram crab. Upgrade with an additional 210-gram crab at $350 or a 265-gram crab at $650. The little critters take some patience to eat, but the creamy roe is well worth the hassle.
Old Bailey’s signature double-boiled lion’s head with pillow-soft hand-chopped pork is given a luxurious bath of hairy crab-roe broth. The consistency of the meatball was delicately light, with an almost souffle-like texture.
To cleanse the palate, local organic seasonal greens.
The menu offers a choice between wok-fried hairy crab roe over hand-pulled noodles or fried rice.
We preferred the version over fried rice as the egg in the rice added more flavour to the dish.
Traditionally, crabs are considered “cold” food, so drinking “hot” Chinese wine or gingery soups and teas help to balance the body. Our tasting menu was capped off with zingy sweet ginger soup with house-made glutinous rice dumplings.
Old Bailey offers a comprehensive way to enjoy the seasonal delicacy of hairy crab in various forms within Jiangnan cuisine. This is a treat for anyone who is mad about hairy crab! Just remember to drink the ginger soup and tea offered during the meal or else you might be shivering from all the “cold” crab.
2/F, JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, 2877 8711, book online
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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