The Covid-19 pandemic has caused the equivalent of a massive earthquake in the F&B industry, one whose aftershocks and reverberations are still being felt today.
But conversely, it has also set the scene for innovation and ingenuity, forcing F&B operators to think outside the box and come up with ideas they never would have even conceived of before.
This is exactly what happened to Crab Meet Restaurant, a popular seafood eatery that was established in 2018 as a result of a partnership with famed Kepong-based restaurant Tak Fok HK Group.
“Tak Fok has been around for close to 25 years and a friend reached out and said they were looking to expand. So we got into a partnership with them and opened Crab Meet.
“And because Tak Fok is run by a family from Hong Kong, all the recipes here are Hong Kong-style dishes passed down through the family for generations,” says Andrew Tan, one of the directors of Crab Meet.
The kitchen is helmed by 28-year-old chef Khor Boon Kiam, who has been cooking in Chinese restaurants since he graduated from secondary school and as a result, has already amassed a decade’s worth of experience, despite his young age.
While the restaurant had initially thrived in the traditional way (i.e. dine-in crowds), the pandemic threw a spanner in the works and forced Tan and his team to get creative with their delivery and takeaway options, in order to boost sales.
“Basically we figured that our normal prices for dine-in reflected associated costs, but since we were saving on utilities and other bills, we used the money we saved to do better promotions. So we did a lot of bundle promotions like four dishes for RM50 or four premium dishes for RM90 and that worked really well for us, because people want no-frills, affordable options,” says Tan.
These combos and promotions are still ongoing. In fact, the restaurant recently introduced a promotion (that will last till the end of the year) where one L-sized crab is priced at RM33. Although a minimum order of two crabs is required, this means you can get a cooked crab dish with two crabs for just RM66!
Interestingly, to run these delivery and takeaway promotions, Tan and his team decided to eschew traditional food delivery platforms (where commissions can typically run up to 35%) and instead roped in their friends in the aviation industry who had lost their jobs to be part of their delivery team.
“We refuse to be on delivery platforms, because with the high commission rates, we don’t make a single cent by offering all these promos. And these promos and their price points appeal to consumers, so they don’t mind paying for the delivery cost.
“And we use that money to pay our part-time delivery riders who are mostly our friends in the aviation industry. Honestly, we are very grateful to them as they have helped us pull through the pandemic,” says Tan.
While Crab Meet’s name implies that crabs are all you can expect on the menu, the reality is, the restaurant offers an incredibly diverse range of meals to satiate any and all culinary predilections. But of course, you should definitely start with the crabs.
In this regard, there is plenty to whet the appetite. You could start off on a familiar note, with the butter sauce crabs (RM33 per L-size crab) which feature fat crabs slathered in a creamy pool of butter sauce that is intoxicatingly good. The crabs are easily pried apart from their shells and boast fresh, fluffy meat, which when paired with the addictive sauce, make for a wonderful, heady trip straight to heaven.
Up next, try the spicy and sour crabs (RM33 per L-sized crab) where the crabs are swimming in a hot tub filled with a thick, distinctively sweet-sour, slightly spicy sauce. The sauce is very, very good and is likely one of the best versions of this particular cooking style that you are likely to find in the Klang Valley. This is the sort of meal that requires additional implements in the form of the fried mantou buns (RM6 for six pieces) to mop up all that delicious sauce with. So tuck in and expect satisfied burps aplenty!
If you’re after a dash of hedonism, go all out and try the crab and lala meehoon (RM158 with one XXXL sized crab).
Fried meehoon is a staple at most children’s birthday parties and this meal offers a vestige of nostalgia for many adults – although this particular iteration is the version people would likely serve if royalty and superstars like Beyonce were on the guest list.
This is a pimped-up fried meehoon if ever there was one. The XXXL crab is enormous and is full of plump, pillowy tufts of sweet crab flesh, which makes the excavation project involved in extracting the meat from the shell oh-so worth it.
The noodles itself are springy to the touch and speckled with copious amounts of fried garlic, dried chillies and fleshy clams – all of which give this meal that elusive Midas touch.
Sticking with the seafood theme, it is absolutely worth taking a detour from crab to explore the wonders of the signature grilled fish in spicy tomato broth (RM68). Here, an entire seabass (you also have the option of tilapia, patin or dragon grouper) is grilled, after which a sauce filled with tomatoes, enoki mushrooms, clams, black fungus, white tofu and cabbage is poured over it.
The fish is fresh and that quality is perfectly complemented by a sauce that is rich, but not overtly thick, with a sour undercurrent and a wholesomeness to it that makes it a good antidote to gloomy, rainy days when a hot, nourishing meal is in order.
To experience a porcine delight, try the roasted long bone pork (RM35) which features pork that is incredibly tender and has a good amount of fat attached to it. The meat is accentuated by a thick, almost caramel-esque sauce that is lightly sweet, rich and complements the pork like a well-paired sidekick. This is a meal where reaching for seconds and possibly even thirds isn’t just a possibility, it’s a certainty.
Up next, make sure to get in a portion of vegetables in the form of the mixed four types of vegetables with belacan (RM20 for a medium portion). Here, you’ll discover long beans, four-angled beans, brinjal and okra enmeshed together in a belacan sauce that is robust and potently good.
It is clear that Crab Meet delivers on every count in the food department, which is why it is little wonder that the eatery’s many promotions and deals have been met with such enthusiasm.
Moving forward, Tan says although the restaurant has been fortunate to have survived the worst (hopefully) of the pandemic, he isn’t thinking big yet. For now, he and his team will be focused on just catching their breath.
“We were lucky that we had people ordering our combo deals when other restaurants were really struggling during the lockdowns.
“So for the next six months – as long as our finances are on track – we are just focused on recovering and making whatever improvements are necessary. We’ll think about expansion later on,” he says.
Order from Crab Meet by calling 017 399 8839.
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