Words: Claire Matheson Photos: Monica Tindall
Fresh seafood, crusty soft bread, a crisp glass of white wine, or a cold beer. What could be better?
If you haven’t checked out Crave Oysters and Seafood House at TREC KL yet, you need to clear your schedule tonight! For seafood lovers, this place will soon become your regular ‘go-to’ spot. Towers of fresh shellfish, a wide selection of oysters for all tastes, fresh trout, and an extensive list of wines by the glass, it ticks every box.
Crave’s atmosphere is warm and charming. Fishing nets and rope adorned lamps hang from the ceiling, and the walls are decorated with nautical bric-a-brac and glass jars containing an assortment of herbs and spices. Comfortable couches add to the relaxed, inviting feel. Outside, white tables with bench seats sit between TREC’s verdant garden beds, providing the perfect people watching location. Inside, running down one side, a long marble bar separates the open kitchen from diners. Along this bar are rows of oysters, gently nestled in shaved ice and seaweed, each variety with its own little chalk board sign detailing its origin. The signs are an international cornucopia, the labels and place names enough to make any oyster aficionado drool.
Melvin Chin, co-founder, manager, ‘Core Chief’ and jack of all trades greets us warmly and takes the time to sit down and talk us through his mouth-watering menu. A big believer in the adage ‘Never trust a skinny chef’, his contagious chuckle and cheeky sense of humour add to the laid back, fun mood.
Appreciative of wine pairings and the ability of an accompanying drink to highlight flavours in the food, Melvin proudly shows off his wine list. Good wine by the glass can be hard to find in KL, and menus around town rarely have more than four or five at most on offer. Here at Crave, there are 15 different wines to be had by the glass, and more than double that available by the bottle, including whites, reds, dessert, port, prosecco, cava, sparkling and champagne ranging RM26-RM68. With many nationalities represented, this alone is a reason to visit.
We order a glass of the New Zealand Alan Scott Sauvignon Blanc (RM32), nicely balanced between sweet and dry, with slight passionfruit and mango on the nose, and a Spanish Villa Conchi Brut Cava (RM38) with a dry, crisp nose, floral tones and a slight citrus after taste. Melvin also recommends we try the Citrus Candy Mocktail – thick, tangy, with an almost sherbert-like zing. Absolutely delicious! Served with lemon and mint, it’s a fantastic choice for non-drinkers, and can be elevated with a splash of white rum or gin for a quintessential afternoon refreshment.
Melvin explains that like tasting wines, when eating seafood, particularly oysters, having a knowledge of the different influences and varietals deepens your understanding and appreciation of the flavours present. Different regions create subtle flavour distinctions, and these can be enhanced by accompaniments and preparation methods. Melvin explains oysters come in three main flavour types: sweet, salty or creamy, and talks us through the similarities and differences, an education he and his staff openly convey to those customers who are curious. He advises us not to upend the shell and all its contents into our mouths from the end as we are used to doing, but instead to suck the oyster out from the top side as this way you don’t get a mouthful of briny water which can overpower the flavour of the oyster itself.
The Fruit De Mer platter (RM188) is a tiered tower of heavenly choices best shared. A three star hot pick on the menu, it’s no wonder why. Smokey, silky Boston Bay mussels from Port Lincoln in South Australia with a deep, almost earthy taste, New Zealand Tuatua Clams, supply on the outer edge with a firm centre, mild and salty Irish Tragheanna Bay Oysters, Australian Tasmania Petuna Ocean Trout served purely and simply to maintain the flavour, creamy United States Surf Clams infused with a mild wasabi oil dressing, and big, meaty prawns, their origin depending on freshest availability. The tower comes with a homemade seafood dipping sauce which enhances rather than overrides the natural flavours. Produce is subject to availability and seasonality, and you can typically expect the more balanced, silkier New Zealand Diamond Clam rather than the Tuatua, although personally I love the contrasting textures of the Tuatua.
Another menu hot pick, the Baked Cheese Oysters (RM45) are Crave’s best comfort food. Baked in their shells and served on a bed of thinly sliced lettuce with lemon wedges for added bite, the oysters are layered with crunchy, just-cooked onion, a healthy serve of cream with a slight taste of wasabi, and lashings of parmesan and cheddar cheese. These are not at all ladylike to eat, but that’s a small price to pay. It is my firm opinion that all the best dishes have cheese, onion and cream in them, and adding fresh shellfish is a mastermind stroke. Well played Crave, well played!
Even a simple bruschetta is given an extraordinary treatment at Crave, with 36-hour sun-dried tomatoes, tangy goat cheese, oh-so-salty fresh anchovies, served on buttery soft baguette and garnished with salmon roe, caviar and a sprig of parsley. Eating it is a visceral experience. You need to use your hands and commit to the mouthful, as the fresh, chewy bread tears reluctantly.
Crave’s baguettes are made in the French style, unsweetened, and are a wonderful tool for soaking up any lasting bits of sauce, juice and flavour remaining on the plate. Just as well that they come heaped on the side of any Seafood Pot dish, along with a large helping of buttery grilled potatoes and a dollop of homemade tartare sauce.
For something unique, we choose the American inspired Cajun Buttered Prawns (RM62), and the sauce is impossible to stop eating. Adding exactly the right amount of spice, it amplifies the taste of the prawns, creating a hardier, stronger and altogether more potent shellfish essence. Melvin instructs us to suck the juice out of the prawn head after eating the body, something I’m a little hesitant to try at first, but he is of course proved right, with the greatest concentration of flavours held here. For additional heat, you can always add a splash of Melvin’s ‘Sexy Hot’ Lemongrass Sauce – with a burning that leaps from the back of your throat and hits you as you draw breath.
If you’re after a more substantial meal, the Australian Barramundi (RM72) is an excellent choice. A personal favourite, and a top menu pick across Australia, barramundi is a buttery, meaty fish without the muddy aftertaste common to most river fish. It’s also a great source of Omega 3 for a healthy heart and brain. Served on a bed of light and foamy cauliflower puree, the flesh falls apart beautifully. Melvin pairs it with seasonal crispy vegetables, a smattering of dried kiwifruit, tomato, pineapple and mango on top, and a few sprigs of fried pasta for added drama.
Crave serves seafood at a reasonable price, so you can enjoy, sample and taste a little bit of everything without breaking the bank. Although, if you’re coming on pay day then you might find a Canadian Lobster with your name on it! Wednesday is Ladies’ night, where you can enjoy two glasses of wine and two oysters for only RM50. Though Melvin hints that he might be persuaded to offer certain incentives for gentlemen as well. And for the Aussies, Kiwis and Brits, they also do a mean fish and chips!
Reasons to visit: Every dish we tried at Crave makes it to the highlights reel! We recommend you choose something you haven’t tried before from the menu, or use Crave’s star rating guide or hot picks on their menu. You will be hard pressed to find such high quality seafood and wide selection of wines by the glass at such reasonable prices elsewhere.
Crave Oysters and Seafood House
436 Jalan Tun Razak
Kelab Golf di Raja Selangor
55000 Kuala Lumpur
+60 3-2110 5095