Food, life, and fun in my "kampung,"(village), KL (Kuala Lumpur). Did I mention "food?"

(Not Halal) Dragon-I, The Curve, an invited review for their Hairy Crab Promotion

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

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"What are you doing for lunch on Saturday?" chirps her madge! (Yes I know, "Her Madge" is used to describe some OTHER celebrity, but while I LURVE THAT "madgesty" in all her incarnations, this one is someone I actually know and she is the Queen of DSLRs)

"Nothing...I think" waiting with bated breath to be invited to some scintillating soiree. Her "Madgesty" did not disappoint. "Would you like to go to Dragon-I as my date for an invited restaurant review?"

Would YOU say no? Of course not!

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At 1140am on Saturday (just a little late) as I lug my laptop tote with me, not wanting to leave it in the car, I trundle into Dragon-I and am greeted cheerfully by Kong Wai Keong, the Public Relations(PR) consultant for Dragon-I restaurants.

A word about Dragon-I restaurants from a layman's point of view. I'm not certain what their PR blurb states but they look like a place which caters to a diverse family oriented group. Kong mentioned that the word is "affordable luxury" when designing the hairy crab menu. Something which seems to be a bit of a catchphrase with many establishments these days. At RM128 nett per person (min of 3 persons), I'm not certain if that's on the more "luxurious" side of "affordable." Especially in this day and age when spending is still verging on the careful. As a comparison, Chef Max at IHaus, serves a 5 course menu which includes Black Cod and Wagyu Beef at RM120+(yes, the single Plus is deliberate).

Having said that, the ambiance in Dragon-I is contemporary oriental and the mini terracotta warriors bring a touch of the ancient to the 21st century family restaurant. I liked it.

We started with a Double Boiled Superior Chicken soup which uses a highly prized chinese ingredient of "yue piu" or the fish bladder. It just doesn't sound as good in English. The soup also had bamboo pith in it which provides a lovely textural crunch against the backdrop of sweet and savoury broth. A broth should provide some bite to show that bones AND meat have gone into its making. That bite is the slight gelatinous edge from the melted collagen that all good broths have. It shouldn't just be watery. And this was a very good example of a Double Boiled soup. There tasted like there was enough, as the cantonese put it, "breath of wok" in it.

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The jade green "siew pak choy" with the crab "sauce", while nice was forgettable. This is not necessarily a bad thing. At the end of the day, a lunch/dinner about Hairy Crabs should be about, well, the Hairy Crabs and not everything else.

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Shanghainese Dumplings with crabmeat and roe was served beautifully in their own little carryalls. Along with the exquisitely julienned pieces of ginger in dark chinese vinegar, I felt that presentation, in Dragon-I plays a large part in it's appeal. As they say, you eat with your eyes first. The skin was a little thicker than I would have liked but the soup inside was warm (which I liked) as opposed to the usual scaldingly hot, and the little roe on top was a nice savoury counterpoint. Ciki loved her dumpling with LOADS of cilipadi.

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The "yong chow" fried rice was decently done and as mentioned to Kong, I was not overly fond of the prawns being dipped in bicarb of soda. It leeches out flavour and leaves you with one bouncy prawn. Having said that the rice grains were distinct and fluffy with sufficient bite. Its tough to get Fried Rice wrong but this one ran middle of the pack.

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The star of the show was really put on display when the captain came over, snapped on some rubber gloves and promptly began dismembering one of the hirsute crustaceans. It was all very deftly and cleverly done and at the end they rearranged it all on the plate like the little bugger had never died. Which if you've noticed, is such a different aesthetic to western cuisine. Everything in Eastern cuisine is all about freshness and maintaining the look of the critter even unto serving on a plate. The crab, as you can see, looks like the crab. Western cuisine however, is vastly different in it's aesthetic sense and can range from verite to nouveau and even art deco/Jackson Pollack. Sometimes one wonders how the western sensibility drifted from the true-to-nature to the disfigured/molded/cut/shaped aesthetic that we have today. Remember the roast pig with the apple in it's mouth?

Furthermore, there are analysts' reports written about Hong Kong's economy being on the mend because of the booming sales of Hairy Crabs. Quite amazing that a little critter like that could be a bellweather for an asian economy.
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On to the important bits. What does a hairy crab taste like? Well, like a crab. I am told that connoiseurs of this particular crustacean value it for the "roe" in the body. The meat is sweet but generally this isn't a meat crab as it is quite small. What there is of it is tasty, firm and flaky, but it's still crab. The roe on the other hand is quite special I am told. Did I mention the meat tastes like crab? The roe, though, is unctuous, very rich, fragrant in a crabby way, and definitely leaving quite an aftertaste on your tongue. It's debatable whether it's actually roe as in egg or roe as in crab sperm, as this roe is generally found in abundance in male crabs. I'm inclined to believe it's the latter. But believe whichever makes you feel more comfortable as you suck the body dry. The jury is out on whether I liked it. But it was definitely an experience.
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Dessert was predictably my favourite bit. I love Tong Yuen. I've never met a glutinous rice ball stuffed with a sweet, savoury, sesame (say that fast 5 times) filling I never liked. Especially in a ginger tea. As I wondered how to take the best picture of my smooth, glossy balls, FBB very kindly offered to help me hold mine. I felt I needed to return the gesture and he in turn again, very sweetly held kampungboy's while he did the needful. All very giving. Unfortunately, Ms Lyrical Lemongrass, her madge, had to hold her own. Yes, she got a pair too.

There were many food bloggers/floggers in attendance. Kyspeaks, kampungboycitygal, cumidanciki, her madge, and of course Fatboybakes, to name a few.
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Waiter Service was exemplary. And since this is not the first time I've been, I can safely say it is something that has been consistent in my experience. Also, I've had some very decent food at Dragon-I restaurants before. I absolutely adore their salted egg custard buns. As to whether or not at RM128 nett per person (min of 3 persons), is worth your while only you can judge. I personally felt that the menu was rather prosaic for that price. Having said that, everything was beautifully presented, and the show of having your hairy crab presented to you, very interesting. To a certain extent, you are paying for the experience as well as the food. So keep that in mind when choosing to spend your dollar here. The Hairy Crab promotion is on now. Thank you very much Dragon I and Kong Wai Keong of PR Kraft for having me.

Dragon-I Restaurant
The Curve
LLot 136 & 137, 1st Floor