One of the newest additions to the Jalan Besar neighbourhood is Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong. This place is funky – and I mean it in a good way. Their menu is a sumptuous celebration of the farm to table concept and plays with typical Western dishes and South-East Asian flavours. If you enjoy plenty of spice, aroma, and the freshest of seafood, then you will love Scaled restaurant.
Flossie’s rating: ★★★★
Scaled is not your typical fish restaurant. Almost all of the seafood is locally sourced (except the prawns) from a fishing farm named Ah Hua Kelong – hence the restaurant name. I never knew there was a fishing industry in Singapore. Well, apparently there is and they are held to very rigorous standards. You can taste the difference at Scaled.
Every visit I am impressed by the enthusiasm of their serving staff. They are excited to share what’s good on the menu! They also take the time to explain the ingredients used to prepare your meal. One of their signature dishes is the pan-seared seabass.
The flesh is plump and flavoursome, seared to perfection with a crispy skin on top. It is served in a bowl of Assam broth, which has a spicy-yet-sour fragrance (kind of like a milder version of tom yum) and garnished with charred Asian greens. However, the greatest delight is the wedges of longtong. These are compressed rice cakes cooked in banana leaves, which have an unusual soft crunch. They provide a tactile contrast to the meatiness of the fish.
The food menu is split between sides (small dishes) and mains. However, everything is suitable for sharing. Among the sides I have tried are the shimeji fries. These are deep-fried mushrooms with a side of hazelnut butter and shoyu mayo. They reminded me of the fried mushrooms snacks trending at many restaurants now, including nearby Char. I’m not a fan. The batter is too heavy for the delicateness of the shimeji. Each bite tastes like crusty oiliness. However, the rich dipping mayo was an interesting concoction worthy of regular chips or potato wedges.
I would recommend starting with the crispy squid. Generous curls of springy meat are deep-fried, topped with diced tomato, and drizzled with a cashew-infused Thai pesto. The golden-brown hues, with splashes of vivid red and green across the plate, are also pleasing to the eye. If you fancy a light lunch, this is good as a dish on its own too.
Another side, the roasted prawns, are also drool-worthy. It is no wonder they are a top recommendation of staff. The prawns are fat and juicy, cooked in the shells, and garnished with plenty of butter and strips of kelp. It’s a simple dish that relies on the freshness of its ingredients. A squeeze of lemon and the saltiness of the kelp provides a subtle kick.
On another visit, I tried these fantastic prawns as a main with spicy alio pasta. If you enjoy a bit of carbs with your seafood, then you’ll find this dish very satisfying. The prawn heads are severed from the body and roasted in dashi (Japanese broth) and other spices. It is recommended you eat the prawn heads first to release the flavour in your mouth before devouring the spaghetti and prawn flesh.
The curry mussel pasta is another big seller at Scaled restaurant. It is the epitome of Western-Asian fusion. Imagine spaghetti con cozze with a tomato-based South Indian curry sauce instead. I’m not a curry-lover at the best of times. While I applaud the creativity of this concoction I found it very messy business navigating the sloppy, coconut-based broth with long strands of al dente pasta and mussels served in the shell. What I will say is that the mussels were well-proportioned and succulent. I would have enjoyed them even more without so many other bold flavours competing for my tastebuds.
Scaled has been around for a while. The place originally operated along Haji Lane before moving to its current location on Hamilton Road. That is good news for me as it has now become my local.
One thing I can be certain of when visiting Scaled is the freshness of their seafood. There are not too many other places out there which take such obvious pride in the quality of ingredients. The prices are also very reasonable (just a step-up from a shopping mall restaurant). More importantly, the passion and pride of the staff shine brightly. I always feel like a valued customer here.
If you visit Scaled, be prepared for surprises and creativity! Some of their fusions are marvellous. The calamari and the seabass are firm favourites of mine. Some other dishes may not quite hit the mark but are still well-worth the experience. After all, it is always good to try new things! I cannot wait for my next visit.
Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong
8 Hamilton Road