Friday, January 25, 2019

The Law of the Sea and The Constitution According To Ministry of Crab

Guided by a set of uncompromising standards from the very beginning, the Ministry of Crab's very own constitution serves as a daily benchmark for Sri Lanka's celebrated restaurant as it comes to Manila at Shangri-La at The Fort. It remains both the core and the foundation for one of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants...

A week after the exclusive preview, it was time to experience one of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in a sumptuous dinner with their signature seafood dishes (for more on the sneak peek, see my earlier post here at #MinistryofCrabMNL: At The Sneak Preview of Ministry of Crab, One Of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants...). Drawing inspiration from its culinary roots and heritage fusing it with modern techniques and a zen-like Japanese philosophy, Ministry of Crab brings both tradition and a progressive contemporary perspective to the table with its seafood specialties. This unique culinary philosophy is summarized and outlined in their own Ministry of Crab Constitition, a set of clearly defined rules with ten specific articles that continue to shape and define one of Asia's best. Here's their constitution, shown in both words and images, for an in-depth look. It's time to crack and pick some Ministry of Crab.

Article I: We only serve the best catch of the day. When it comes to crab, we don't serve them small, meatless, with one claw missing, or with unevenly sized claws - only the best of the catch.

Fresh, live, never frozen, and locally sourced. And absolutely no compromises. For Ministry of Crab chef and founder Dharshan Munidasa, there's just no other way around it if you want a crab feast to remember. Weaving traditional Sri Lankan flavors with its fabled spices and vibrant notes, Ministry of Crab showcases freshness as the source of flavor from the day's best catch. The evening's seafood dinner featured the freshest seafood, from starters to mains, yet the dominant flavors remain fresh, clean and even uncomplicated despite the multiple layers of flavors. It's this delicate balance of notes that make the seafood, and the crabs, always stand out at Ministry of Crab.

A tipple before dinner is always a good idea. Start with a refreshing cocktail, like the soothing Ceylon Spritz (P 500) with peach tea syrup, dry vermouth or sparkling wine. Another favorite from the preview a week earlier is the Spirit of the Sea (P 500), a refreshing blend of Portobello Road No. 171 Gin, cucumber and cilantro, Bergamot juice, green tomato jam and saline. From non-alcoholic beverages to single estate tea, premium beer, fine wine and spirits, Ministry of Crab is also one cool spot for a relaxing tipple at the bar.

Article II: We won't buy anything frozen, nor do we freeze our seafood. The only use we've found for our freezers is to store our food refuse for disposal.

Fresh, never frozen. It's the mantra at Ministry of Crab, and you can immediately taste the difference from the first dish down to the last. Our seafood feast began with Ministry of Crab's simple yet flavorful Clams (P 450) with fresh and plump clams gently simmered in butter and soy sauce. The clams deliver a briny sweetness that's so delicate, followed by the richness of butter and a subtle sharpness from the soy sauce. The seemingly contrasting notes come together perfectly, with each flavor complementing the other.   

Artice III: We know that all the fish in the sea can be eaten as sashimi. If a restaurant serves good quality seafood, it should be able to serve it as sashimi. Many don't/can't/won't. We do.

Have a bite and scoop up some of that sauce. The flavors are clearly driven by freshness, enhanced by the masterful blend of other ingredients and spices. Ministry of Crab offers several other tasty starters, including Ebi Shioyaki (P 150), Maru Ebi (P 450), Avocado Crab Salad (P 750), Baked Crab (P 850), King Prawn Bisque (P 675), Crab Sisig (P 750) and Lumpiang Ubod with Crab (P 550).

Article IV: We treat all our ingredients with utmost respect, using techniques which stem from Japanese culinary philosophies and practices. These same principles are employed at the finest Japanese restaurants.

The Big Prawn Garlic Chili (P 675) is an original dish by Ministry of Crab fusing Mediterranean and Japanese culinary philosophies and techniques combining seamlessly together in a vibrantly flavored seafood dish. Wok-fried to perfection, the succulent prawn is made even richer with the blend of Italian olive oil, nutty garlic, the deep notes of Sri Lankan chili flakes and the subtle sharpness of Japanese soy sauce. The prawn has a tender yet firm texture, responding with an audible snap with every bite. At Ministry of Crab, it really is all about freshness.

Elegantly plated without the usual sides and garnishes, the prawn remains the hero of the plate. But that sauce is something else, coating your palate with a nutty richness punctuated by gentle hints of soothing heat. Grab some bread, and soak it up.

At Ministry of Crab, diners can choose from one of seven different sizes, from 1/2 Dozen Black Tiger Prawns (P 1,250), Big Prawn (P 675-150 to 200g), Huge Prawn (P 850-200 to 250g), 1/2 Pound Prawn (P 975-250 to 300g), Yodha Prawn (P 1,150-300 to 400g), and if you're really hungry, go for Ministry of Crab's wittingly named OMG Prawn (P 1,350-400 to 500g) and the Prawnzila (P 1,550-500 to 600g). The variety of prawn sizes are matched by the equally impressive number of ways you can enjoy your fresh picks, all prepared in that unique signature Ministry of Crab style using the finest spices and seasoning. The fresh prawns can be cooked in a wide range of tasty options from Chili Prawns, Pepper Prawns, Garlic Prawns, Garlic Chili Prawns, Garlic Pepper Prawns, Olive Oil & Soy Prawns, and the popular Butter Soy Prawns.

Article V: We consider forks and knives merely an option. We have specialized crab utensils to help you pry succulent crab meat from its shell, but digging in with your hands is NOT frowned upon.

Before the main course was served, Ministry of Crab's servers offered a range of implements, from picks to crackers, for the coming crab feast (L). But do consider Article V in the Ministry of Crab Constitution, it is fun, even liberating, to get down and dirty with some of the freshest, most succulent crabs in the metro.

Article VI: We aim to remind you that the Philippines is a beautiful nation of 7,461 islands, which is reflected in the seafood available to us. Over 20% of known shellfish species can be found here. The Philippine Sea is vast and rich, that is why our seafood is simply amazing.

And the main course is served. Locally sourced, the highlight of the evening's feast comes closer to home than you think. Sourcing it close to home can spell the difference between just fresh and real freshness. One can't help but feel a certain sense of pride that world-class quality can be harvested without going too far. If you can cut the mileage from all your ingredients, the flavors remain at its freshest peak.

Article VII: We aim to be one the lowest "food-mile" restaurants in the world; hence we do not import any major ingredients.

The Pepper Crab (P 2,400-Small up to 700g) is the definitive dish that captures Ministry of Crab's philosophy and Sri Lankan roots. Black pepper has been locally cultivated for over 4,000 years running deep in Sri Lanka's heritage. Often regarded as the King of Spices in Sri Lanka, it's not surprising to know that all traditional Sri Lankan curries have that distinctive black hue. The flavorful sauce is tediously prepared with hand crushed peppercorns rolled on a traditional miris gasala and dark pepper stock along with other Sri Lankan spices for authenticity and bold flavors. But the peppers don't overwhelm the subtle flavors of the succulent crabs. In fact, the initial flavors experienced from the peppers with this dish come in several layers, starting with a distinctive sweetness followed by a deep and earthy finish that just warms both your palate and body with a gentle and comforting heat. 

Article VIII: Sri Lanka and the Philippines are known for mud crabs. These crabs have developed a proud reputation in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, China and Japan - Thank you! We are honored to be the first institution in Manila dedicated to serving the best Philippine Mud Crabs here in our home country.

The Philippine mud crab is highly prized in many countries, and it just makes a whole lot of sense that we can enjoy our very own right here. The crab meat is firm with a sweetness that just lingers long after the last bite. Diners are given a complimentary black bib, it's like Ministry of Crab's way of saying it's perfectly all right to get down and dirty with your hands. Picking crabs is serious business, and a bib helps.  

Picking out the meat from the crab is easy at Ministry of Crab, perfectly illustrating how freshness can make a difference. The sumptuous crab offerings at Ministry of Crab are best paired with Kade Bread, a local Sri Lankan street bread, or Japanese steamed rice. Both work well when dipped or poured with the pepper sauce.  And just like the garlic chili sauce of the prawn earlier, the pepper sauce draping the crab is just way up there delivering a range of flavors from a rich sweetness to a palate-teasing spice all in one bite. It really isn't all about heat with these black peppers, but layers and layers of flavor building on the other.

At the end of the feast, with a bowl full of incriminating picked crab shells, the servers then bring out the Ministry of Crab Finger Bowl for you to dip your hands. The warm finger bowl is a fragrant concoction with tea to remove the oily feel, the traditional Ayurvedic disinfectant Venivel, and iramisu flowers. Just perfect. 

And just like Ministry of Crab's fresh prawns, the Philippine Mud Crabs are available in a range of sizes, from 1/2 Kilo Crab (P 1,800-500 to 600g), Small (P 2,400 up to 700 g), Medium (P 3,000 up to 800g), Large (P 3,750 up to 900g), XL (P 5,000 up to 1 kg), Kilo Crab (P 5,750 above 1 kg), Jumbo (P 6,500 above 1.1 kg), Colossal (P 7,000-1.2 kg/P 8,250-1.3 kg/P 8,750-1.4 kg), OMG!!! (P 9,750-1.5 kg/P 10,250-1.6 kg/P 10,500-1.7 kg/P 10,750-1.8 kg/P 11,000-1.9 kg), and the impressive Crabzilla (P 11,250-2 kg, P 500 per 100g thereafter). You can have your crab prepared one of nine ways, from the signature Pepper Crab boldly seasoned with Sri Lankan black pepper, Garlic Chili Crab, Garlic Crab, Garlic Pepper Crab, Chili Crab, Curry Crab with the traditional Sri Lankan curry, and Butter Crab as well as inspired local flavors with the Guinataang Crab and Pinakurat Crab

Article IX: Our crabs are grown in their natural habitat. Their supply is based on the daily catch which is dependent on rainfall, strong winds and ambient temperature. We apologize in advance if the size of crab you require is not available. We consider it a privilege to serve you the finest mud crabs from the Philippines.

Ministry of Crab's lighted board displaying crab shells serve as a quick guide if you're preferred size is available. Other tasty main courses include Chargrilled Chicken or Fish (P 350-800), Chicken Curry Rice (P 850), Chargrilled Spicy Chicken Teriyaki (P 350) and Clay Pot Prawn Curry (P 2,100). Or why not let the chefs of Ministry of Crab surprise you with the Catch of the Day (P 800)? 

Dive deeper into Sri Lanka's rich culinary heritage with an indulgent dessert at Ministry of Crab, like the sweet and nutty Pistachio Kulfi with Cashew and Biscotti (P 375)...

...or the Warm Rice Pudding (P 375) with almonds, rum raisins, and burnt rice ice cream topped with fresh strawberries. Other decadent desserts include the Baked Jaggery Custard Cream (P 375), Agar-Agar Jelly with Fresh Philippine Mangoes (P 375), and Moist Chocolate Cake with Caramelized Bananas (P 375). Or why not go all-out with the decadent Ministry of Crab Ice Cream Sundae (P 1,075) with seven scoops of assorted ice cream topped with barquillos? 

Article X: Shangri-La at The Fort is proud to be home to Ministry of Crab, Manila! We believe that the best produce must be enjoyed locally. This is the belief we both share, wherever the Ministry may be.

That's the Ministry of Crab Constitution, the law of the sea when it comes to fine seafood dining. After dinner, I couldn't help but wonder, this could very well be my best seafood experience yet. And when two iconic brands come together, you just know good things are bound to happen. A shared philosophy and commitment to quality converge at Ministry of Crab, one of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, now open at Shangri-La at The Fort.

Ministry of Crab is located at Shangri-La at The Fort, 30th Street corner 5th Avenue, Taguig City or call 820-0888 for reservations and inquiries. You can also follow Ministry of Crab Manila on social media with the hashtag #ministryofcrabMNL or @ministryofcrab.manila.

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