Monday, July 20, 2009

Enjoying the good life

At King Crab, eating seafood can be a fine dining experience.

TWO words that best sum up Datuk Marcus Kam are “hip” and “happening”!

In addition to being the CEO of Pathlab and proprietor of King Crab Restaurant, he also owns the Titanium Dance Club and the Momentum Gym at Phileo Damansara.

Food on his mind: Kam has turned his fine dining experience and passion for European cuisine into a profitable concern.

The fit and trendy globetrotting father-of-four speaks four languages including Thai and French. Learning the language of love, he said, was an extension of his passion for European cuisine, and his dining experience was the genesis of King Crab, a Chinese seafood restaurant where I had a chat with him over lunch.

One that comes to mind is L’Auberge Dab, a seafood establishment in Paris famed for its oysters, filet bearnaise and crème brulee. Kam, who is the only son of Datuk Dr Kam Foong Wing, the founder of Pathlab, also revealed that he had nurtured a passion for cooking since he was eight.

“I started by making simple things like egg sandwiches and noodles. When I got older, I advanced to curries,” he said.

As Kam grew up with three sisters, it may seem odd for him to have taken such a liking to culinary art. “I was merely thinking about my future. I learned how to be a good cook so that I wouldn’t have to rely on anyone to feed me,” he reasoned.

Today, some of Kam’s specialties, like beef bourguignon and confit de carnard (duck roasted to crispy perfection and served with gently baked grapes), have titilated the palates of many well-known VIPs at his private dinner parties. However, the Johorean soon realised that the gastronomic affairs were becoming shorter and fewer in between as his business commitments grew. Not wanting to disappoint his guests and seeing that it could be a profitable venture, he went into the food business.

Raw deal: The geoduck, served on a mound of shaved ice tinted with dragon fruit juice, is best eaten raw.

It may cross the diner’s mind to ask why Kam had not started up a restaurant serving Western food instead, since he was so predisposed towards the cuisine. For the record, he has and the place is called Marco’s, an Italian concern which is just a block away from King Crab.

In fact, it was after the opening of Marco’s that Kam met three chefs who had heard about his intention to start a Chinese seafood restaurant. Understandably, the identity of the chefs is a secret that Kam guards closely. It seems the restaurant industry is notorious for staff pinching!

Should the need arise, Kam said, he could don the apron himself, but he preferred to leave the daily operations of King Crab to those who know the business best.

“I have the respect of the chefs because they know that I too know how to cook,” he quipped.

Plus he does have an effective method of quality assurance in the form of his sensitive taste buds, he said. “Most people know when the taste is off but they don’t know how to rectify it. I do. This is my unique talent.”

On Kam’s recommendation, we had geoduck for starters. The geoduck (pronounced ‘gwee duck’) was served raw, thinly sliced and resting on a bed of shaved iced that had been stained with dragon fruit juice.

Kam insisted that this was the best way to savour the subtle flavours and sweet and scrunchy texture of this northern American saltwater clam, which the Chinese have nicknamed “elephant trunk clam”.

It is believed to have aphrodisiac properties and, through its long life (these plankton-sucking clams have a life expectancy of 146 years with the oldest recorded at over 160 years), it is also tied to longevity.

At King Crab, the clams are kept alive and fresh in a well-filtered aquarium so there are no niggling doubts about their quality.

For those who must have their food cooked, a hotpot containing a supreme stock was served with the sashimi slices.

The essence of the stock – chicken, smoked pork leg and a host of Chinese herbs like dong kwai, medlar seeds and roots – all combined together to yield an aromatic broth that clung delightfully to the slices of geoduck that were dipped into it. As such, the diner may be tempted to steep the geoduck slices longer in the stock, assuming that this would give the meat extra flavour. However, Kam cautioned that doing so would cause overcooking and render the scrunchy flesh into an unchewable mass. Ideally, they should only be half cooked, he insisted.

For mains, there was the snow crab in creamy butter sauce and Kam pitched that this was actually a favourite with lady diners as the shells were soft enough to be scissored opened.

Served in a clay pot, the snow crab, which were harvested from the deep seas of Southern Australia, was coated with a delicious sauce enriched with parmesan cheese and speckled with curry leaves. A plate of mantou was considerately provided so that diners could lap up every last drop of this flavourful sauce.

In retrospect, there is a general agreement that snow crabs must be cooked with butter. It certainly makes sense as the milky notes of the golden dairy blocks marry very well with the delicate sweetness of the crab.

But note that the snow crab is not known as the king among crabs for nothing. By itself, the flesh already has a succulent buttery quality and very little seasoning is needed to bring out its flavour. “Though we can cook the snow crab in any way that the customer chooses, the best way to appreciate it is to have it steamed,” said Kam.

In the course of feasting, one would not miss the fiery green Thai chilli sauce which is present as a dip on every table. Made in Kam’s home kitchen, it is for sale and is the closest you can get to sampling his culinary skills.

King Crab is at 103-107, Jalan SS25/2, Taman Mewah Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, tel: 03-780 36999. There is a branch at 1&1A, 3&3A, Jalan Harmonium 23/12, Taman Desa Tebrau, Johor Baru, tel: 07-351 3333. Check out their website at

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