Lee Do Cold Crab Restaurant
I first went to Lee Do restaurant almost three years ago today with a client who was kind enough to bring me here for lunch and it was on that first visit where I had cold crab for the very first time. I’m not sure why it’s taken me three years to return here because upon my first visit I found it to be one of those incredible crab dishes I’d ever eaten. I did tell my family all about it and have discussed it from time to time but it was on this cold and rainy day here in Singapore at the beginning of 2022 when the temperature had dropped to 23°C Brrr…
I felt with the cold weather it was an appropriate time for me to return.
The location of the restaurant is unusual to say the least as it’s on the ground floor of the Automobile Megamart at 61 Ubi Ave 2. The restaurant has been here for 23 years in fact and started out its roots back in Bendemeer Rd in a HDB estate before being knocked down and so their relocation occurred back in 1999.
Many people would call this type of restaurant classic but for me it brought back fond memories of Chinese food that I’d been brought up eating whilst living back in the UK. The actual style of food is Fuzou (Hockchew) and of course not British at all. However, the dishes that we chose to eat today had reminiscences of a bygone era it took me back during the 70s, I mean that in the best possible way.
Lee Do Restaurant Venue & Styling
The venue is big, both wide and deep and high in nature which is not surprising given that it’s in an industrial park. the tables were laden with white linen (they didn’t stay that white too long once we started eating) white plates chopsticks and was soon presented with a pot of Chinese tea and small Chinese cups alongside the menu.
Given the space is part of a Car Sales Showroom the expansive place allows them to keep safe distancing between the large tables.
Now onto the Lee Do Cold Crab
Obviously, the main reason for coming to this restaurant is to return to enjoy the famous Lee Do cold crab so we thumbed through the menu to find the page highlighting the crabs available. These crabs come from Sri Lanka and a very similar to the crabs that you’ll find in a chilli crab restaurant here in Singapore the difference being is that these would be smaller in size 800 grams or less and there is a reason for that which I will get to later. The crab options were somewhat confusing to us so we tried to get an explanation but quite honestly we just ended up ordering a Large Cold Crab because it wasn’t overly clear when we asked the waitress.
What type of Crabs do they sell at Lee do Restaurant?
Now obviously we were here for the cold crab and the confusion for us came between the cold crab (double shelled) and the cold crab (large), we wanted to make sure that we maximize our visit by having exactly what I’d had the last time but unfortunately, I couldn’t remember so we had to wing it. To play it safe we went with the Lee do Cold Crab (Large) and we were not disappointed.
Why are Cold Crabs smaller than Chilli Crabs?
The reason that the crabs are small in size is primarily due to the fact that the larger the crab has tougher the meat, so when you take the small crab it is in fact not only sweeter in nature but softer in texture. The crab came out and had been cut into pieces almost similar to that of a cut pizza. The inside of the shell had lots of membrane covered in yellow sticky egg liver. The crab liver could clearly be seen on the limbs and body parts of the crab that had been delicately sliced for our eating pleasure. after devouring the liver that had been left in the head of the shell, we quickly moved on to the crabs limbs the claws and the legs each of which was sweeter than the next and the yolk like yellow liver was oozing off the crab flesh was just incredible.
What other Food is there besides Crab?
Honey Pork Ribs
Next up on our order was the Honey Pork Ribs, it was this dish in particular that took me back to Chinese restaurants in the UK, red in colour, a sweet sticky sauce that fell off the ribs like wax from a candle it was so thick. 4 ribs in all and they were demolished in minutes! Finger licking good even during Covid (yes we did use hand sanitizer, that did not affect the taste at all).
We had ordered the Deep Fried Baby Squid but after ordering we made a quick decision to make a change to the crispy prawn but upon speaking with the waitress my wife made an executive decision to change it for the crispy duck (this is not unusual at all and I just go with it mostly). The Crispy Duck (\$30) again immediately brought me back to the UK where crispy duck pancakes still hold a place in my heart. Thankfully it was only half a duck that arrived at our table within minutes of the ribs being finished and I have to say that the duck it was so crispy and delicious honey sauce accompaniment which simply wasn’t enough to go around went down a treat.
Next on the menu my daughter opted for the Fouzou Noodles ($10) which were very similar to Hokkien Mee which you could order at a Zi Char stall at a hawker center in Singapore but what really made this dish stand out for me was the shellfish that really sweetened this dish and gave it its own characteristics. Prawns, calamari, and clams plus the noodles coated in a thick dark soy sauce made for easy eating (add red chilli in soy sauce to take to next level).
Claypot Red Wine Chicken Soup
One of the more famous non-Crab dishes is the Claypot Red Wine Chicken Soup which we did not have room for this visit but will certainly return to try out more Crab and other dishes they have on the menu.
Just one more Cold Crab?
I must say at this stage the three of us were full and we could probably have left at that point but since we had travelled specifically to this restaurant in order to have cold crab having one probably just wasn’t enough. We beckoned the waitress over again as it was getting close to closing time and check to see whether or not we could still order she quickly came back from the kitchen to say the only cold crab left available was the confusing double shelled crab. We asked the waitress again to explain what this meant so that we could decide as to whether or not we would like to have one final crab before we left.
Double Shelled Cold Crab
It seems that the crab at this stage in its development (prior to being killed obviously) is shedding the hard outer shell and growing another shell underneath, which means that the under-shell is softer in nature and hasn’t yet hardened to be the crustacean that we know it to be. So when the lid of the shell is popped it has a shell like cover however it’s soft like skin and all the goodness of the previous large cold crab that we’d had would be revealed. The light skinned texture coating over the crab meat gives it a very different sensation whilst you eat it. Armed with this new information, we looked at each other and immediately agreed this was a must try.
When the crab arrived it was very distinct from the crab that we’d had before but similar in a way that you can see from the picture below but something that I’ve never come across before. We couldn’t wait a minute longer to try this new version of the cold crab and dug straight in both hands and this time we felt we were much more experienced as to how this crab would be devoured.
The big difference with this crab compared to the previous was the outer skin that the meat was covered with but more than that the inner flesh was in fact much sweeter and the crab liver we compared to a cross between the following food choices, egg yolk, durian and a soft cheese, not literally combined but just the pleasure after eating those three ingredients seem to have been emulsified into a single gratifying food experience. One of the crab legs was almost like a sweet lollipop (see picture below) with a yellow like yolk exterior of crab legs coating the inner white flesh of the crabmeat which was just a joy to eat as we finished an incredible meal at this restaurant that’s been around now for over 4 decades and it’s not surprising it is playing around for this long because it truly is that good.
Lee Do Restaurant History
The Food was finished and we were full but the story doesn’t end there…
We were the last to leave as you can imagine as we ordered the food late and it was a lunch time seating, so the place was not overly busy, partly due to it being the last day of the holidays before people go back to work, well at least from home but mostly due to the rain. Just after we received and paid the bill a gentleman came over to the table who looked like he would own the place and as it turns out he was the owner. Mr Tang and his wife are the proud owners of Lee Do restaurant, and his son is sitting in the wings waiting to eventually take over the family business much like Mr Tang did from his father many years ago.
Mr Tang was more than happy to discuss past, present and future of Lee Do restaurant the business and we delved in and I asked questions relative to the history of the establishment which I was not familiar with until he told me much more about the business from its humble beginnings to date. The original restaurant was set up by a gentleman from China in the Bendemeer Road area as mentioned before and in its original iterance the restaurant was called Lido named after the famous cinema brand that was nearby. Due to the legal nature of using another brand name they have to change the name from Lido to Lee Do, the China man kept Lido spelt in Chinese but changed the English name to get around a legal charge. Also a series of issues around the restaurant related to mostly not paying tax led Mr Tangs father eventually set up his restaurant which turned into what it is today, the family business.
Mr Tang was happy to tell me that the original crabs the people ate here in Singapore we’re not those that came from Sri Lanka, now this is a story that I’ve heard before the original thoughts from people in Singapore where that the crabs from Sri Lanka had been eating dead bodies coming from funeral cremations placed in rivers and this was the reason why the crabs were so big and so they found it very difficult to sell the crabs here in Singapore. There were originally three brothers selling seafood in Tekka market and they asked Mr Tangs father to help promote the Sri Lanka crab.
When the crabs didn’t sell Mr Tang’s father placed the crab in the fridge to keep them overnight to be able to sell them the next day and it was up on the next day checking of the crab to see if they were suitable for eating, they notice that the crab meat and liver had a different look and texture and upon trying them they felt that the crab was much sweeter. A moment of Serendipity right there!
This was the birth of the cold crab but there’s a twist in this story because the cold crab was originally called the ‘chilled crab’ but many people when seeing it listed on the menu confused it with chilli crab (Chilli(ed) Crab), see what I did there? Chilli Crab is something that we know is very popular here in Singapore, so Mr Tang decided to change the name from chilled crab to cold crab so it wouldn’t be confused with chilli crab anymore.
Lee Do Restaurant – Infamy
So the restaurant is known to be a pioneer for the Cold Crab but its been told that the real popularity grew when legend has it local actor Moses Lim introduced the idea of Cold Crab on his TV show.
The Price of Crabs
We talked some more to Mr Tang about how much the prices have changed of crabs over time and of course the price of crab as he mentioned has gone up much like the price of gold. He noted that crabs used to cost around $12 back in the 70’s/80s (he was not very precise on that part) and even when I looked at another blog on this restaurant dating back to 2017 the price was $64 for 2 crabs. So, the global logistics issue coupled with inflation is certainly impacting seafood prices.
But to be honest the price of the crab that we ate today we felt for the quality of the food compared to what you would get outside elsewhere in a high-end restaurant was very reasonable and despite being much higher than it had been in the past we felt that the price was very palatable. to give you an example the large cold crab came in at $62 and was based on the weight and the local market price at the time yet the double cold crab that I’ve mentioned in the paragraph before came in only $53. My wife and I agreed that we would return and likely the two of us would order one large and one double crab again because we felt that it had incredible value.
Shark Fin Soup
I had a final question for Mr. Tang and one that my wife and I beg to differ on, its Shark Fin. To me the shark needs to be protected but to the Chinese its still considered a delicacy. So I asked Mr. Tang if people still came to his restaurant to eat shark fin and was very surprised by the answer that he gave. Mr Tang said that it was mostly the Japanese that came to his restaurant to eat shark fin as the locals had moved away from this type of food for quite some time already. He was also of the mind that sharks fin was not something that should be consumed as its pointless cartilage but I guess he has to cater to his clients demands (hopefully one day they just stop entirely).
I was very happy to hear this but to note I did tell my wife up-front in no certain terms we would not be ordering shark fin for lunch today, which she gracefully agreed.
**The image of shark fin soup above was not taken by me but a stock image photograph used for this purpose only!
Lee Do Restaurant Review - Conclusion
Overall we found Lee Do Restaurant to be unassuming but most welcoming. Unless you are in the Ubi area for lunch its going to be a destination restaurant to visit.
We went for lunch which has a cut off time but Mr. Tang suggested going during the evening and you can even BYO bottle of booze to enjoy with you meal Corkage for dinner as you can take your time to eat more slowly and wash it down with your favourite tipple.
I can assure you that we will be back here again and most likely in time for Chinese New Year with a bottle or two in hand and I recommend you get down here soon before those Crab prices go up again!
Lee Do Restaurant Address & Contact Details
Address: 61 Ubi Avenue 2, #01-13 Automobile Megamart, 408898
Phone: +65 6742 2181