Dropped in on Star Chef seafood restaurant 星名廚 at Gelang Patah yesterday. It has been more than half a year since my last visit.
Disclosure: Alex, the boss is a good friend. Our first meeting was purely chance.
I was at 822 Roast Duck in TUTA and as the tables were all taken, I asked to share a table with Alex, whom I had not met before. When my roast duck arrived, I soon become self absorbed in taking pictures and scribbling notes about the taste on my little notebook. Alex was curious about what I was doing and we started to chat - that's when Alex told me that he is the owner of Star Chef. I had since visited Star Chef a few times from its old location in Skudai and now in Gelang Patah. So now, I am more like a friend visiting than the usual customer.
What to eat? Alex scanned his orange colour ice box to see what was available today. I was lucky, there was this huge ocean fresh wild Sea Bass head in the box. Alex told me that this fish weighed about 5 kilos whole (before it was cut up).
Let me explain a little. The stock of fish at Star Chef depends literally on the fishermen's catch of the day - Alex's stock are mostly wild catches from nearby Sungai Pendas. So the fish available is like a kind of lucky draw. Today was a good day. Alex had a large wild Sea Bass in the ice box.
If you are coming, to be safe, I suggest giving Alex a call at +6012-775-6313 to check what fresh fish is available.
Our Sea Bass was steamed and then blanketed with a tangy, sweet and subtly spicy Nyonya 娘惹 gravy.
The flesh was tender, refreshingly sweet and enhanced by the Nyonya sauce. The sauce was loaded with cherry tomatoes, onions, pineapples, lady's fingers, and lard crackles here and there. I love the tender flesh especially around the belly and under the pectoral fin. Needless to say, there was no fishy or muddy smell at all. Fish price is seasonal and Alex is selling this at RM60 per kilo now.
Lala clams in Superior Broth 上汤啦啦.
The live Lala clams were cooked just right - juicy and sweet.
There were lots of these browned diced garlic in our Lala clam dish. I like. The broth was thickened with evaporated milk. Next time, I shall try Lala clams with an unthicken gravy.
None of the seafood restaurants here in Gelang Patah offers live lobster but Star Chef does offer frozen Spiny Lobsters imported from Indonesia. The lobsters are cooked in a variety of ways like with Superior Broth, salted egg yolks, battered and deep fried, or stir fried with chopped garlic which was what I had.
The frozen lobster flesh is slightly drier and less bouncy than live lobsters. It also doesn't have that delicate flavour that makes live lobsters special. But at RM100/ kg for 300-400 gram sized lobsters, I feel that this is a very interesting option. Next time, I would try the Superior Broth version and see if it tastes closer to live lobsters. I would also want to try it cooked with Marmite sauce - never tried Marmite lobsters before, just curious about how it would taste.
And finally, crabs, which is what most people come to Gelang Patah for. I asked to try Star Chef's Marmite crab.
The crab is fried, tossed in Marmite based sauce, wrapped in aluminium foil and then briefly baked. The sweet crab meat is complemented by the savoury and sweet caramel-like flavour of Marmite sauce. Some might find this too sweet but it was good to me as I have a sweet tooth :)
Alex told me that he is having a crab promotion till end of Aug 2013. Star Chef will be selling crabs at 1kg for RM48. These are not those large crabs but those weighing in at around 300+ grams each. So each kilo will be around 3 crabs. The crabs can be prepared in any style stated in the menu e.g. steamed, cooked with salted egg yolks, black pepper, chili crab, with Marmite and so on. At RM48 per kilo, it is a good deal.
Remember to ask for this special rice. It is good quality rice cooked with braising sauce and there are added bits of pork lard crackles, dried shrimps and long beans. This is a delicious alternative to plain white rice at RM1.40 a bowl.
After our lunch, Alex took me in his pickup truck to Sungai Pendas to show me where he gets his fish supply. It is at the end of Jalan Tangung Kupang, at the mouth of Sungai Pendas (about 30 minutes drive from Gelang Patah. Map GPS: 1.379144,103.634778). The fish, crabs and prawns are caught by Orang Asli fishermen in those mangroves you see in the background of the picture above. The catch are landed at the jetties here in the morning and sold direct to restaurants and also members of the public. There are also a couple of seafood restaurants here, right at the jetty. The well known Yeo's Family Restaurant is also nearby. However, this afternoon, the place was very quiet as the market closed early for Ramadan. I am definitely coming back for the fish market and will also try out the restaurants here at Sungai Pendas.
Restaurant name: Star Chef Restaurant 星名廚
Address: 51, Jalan Gelang Emas 1, Taman Gelang Emas, Gelang Patah, Johor Bahru
Hours: 09:30am to 10:30pm (Closed on alternate Thursdays)
Date visited: 28 Oct 2012, 28 Nov 2012, 29 Jul 2013
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