We go behind the scenes at the latest F&B openings to check out the highlights and challenges faced.
On everyone’s lips is HolyCrab, a restaurant gaining popularity with its unique take on the coveted crustacean. Owner and chef, Elton Seah, 40, is not one to shy away from flavours like balsamic or green curry, all while satisfying traditionalist with the usual line-up of chilli and black pepper crabs.
We sat down with Chef Elton to find out his inspiration for the restaurant, his menu and what makes his crab dishes stand out.
How did your love for cooking begin?
When I was 13 and sent to a boarding school in California, getting used to American food was really painful. The section for Asian food was steamed rice and a bottle of soya sauce. So on weekends, we Asian students would cook hotpot, have Korean BBQ, and experiment with ramen.
How did HolyCrab go from private dining to becoming a restaurant?
I started off cooking for friends and family, who invited others. Eventually they offered to pay for the ingredients, and suggested that I do private dining. Then I decided to specialise in crabs. That’s how HolyCrab was born. It was just a hobby and I did two bookings a week, but I finally decided to pursue this fulltime with a restaurant. I had the confidence because of my pool of customers from the past seven to eight years.
How do you compete with other crab restaurants?
I don’t think much about the competition. I offer different crab dishes, like my green chilli crab, which I created because the good old Singapore chilli crab to me is a bit old. Most restaurants cook salted egg yolk crab dry, but we add the gravy element that can be soaked up with mantou. For my white pepper crab, I chose to add pink peppercorns for a different flavour profile.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Managing the supply of crabs. A customer can order no crab dishes; a walk-in can take away five crabs. We once had three bookings cancelled in a day, and just last night, we ran out of crabs and I had to rush to Mustafa to find crabs.
What makes a good crab dish?
The core element is the freshness of the crab. On a scale of flavour intensity, you can have a level 1 steamed crab with Shaoxing wine or a level 10 tom yum crab. But if flavours are balanced, both would taste equally awesome. Also, the sauce has to complement and not mask the crab flavour.
Which crab dish represents your personality?
I would say the balsamic crab, because it speaks of my courage to do something different and being a trendsetter in the market. I had my fears about the dish because not everybody likes vinegar. It is a very acquired taste. We just have to tell them what to expect, and see if they want to try it.
Tell us about your vibrant chef jackets.
Initially my chef’s uniform was black, but it didn’t work for me. I’m a very loud and flamboyant guy. So I made jackets in bright pink, yellow, red, green and orange. Customers started taking photos with me and getting to know me. I sort of present myself as the third or fourth dish — although I’m not edible!