G7 Sin Ma Live Seafood - It's not just about the frogs

Frog is a popular meat in Singapore and, like the saying goes, you have to kiss a lot of them to find a prince. G7 Sin Ma Live Seafood in Geylang is one of those princes. Famous for their frog porridge and other frog-realted dishes, it's a typical eating house that has outgrown the usual open corner, plastic table character and has bulged into the storefront across the street and even to the second level. There the dining room is slightly fancier in decor and suitable for a large group such as, in our recent case, a gathering of hungry Makansutra "makankakis." But despite this restaurant's anuran popularity you don't have to kiss a lot of frogs to get royal food here, as evidenced by the exceptional meal that the chef served up.

It started with Scallop & Mango Roll and Dragon Beard Prawns, set on a platter with diced fruit gently tossed in a creamy mayo-based dressing. The hand-spun "beards" encircling the prawns were light and crispy, sweetened by the plump meat of the shellfish within.

Next came Braised Dried & Fresh Fish Maw in a casserole. The contrasting textures of the ingredients, combined with the gentle flavor of the sauce made from the fish's own juices, was savory and delicious and announced to all that this eating house is not just about frog porridge.

Just as we were craving more our waitress whisked in with a plate of Cantonese Roast Duck and Sio Bak pork. The duck was cooked to perfection, not at all dry despite the remarkable caramelization of the skin to a deep, earthen color and a sheen that made our mouths water before we even tasted it. The pork was cut old-school style; chunkier for a full-on meaty experience. The crackling skin was thick and firm, never softening under the air and equally uniform in texture. It delivered a very satisfying, not-too-salty taste. In a sea of roasted meats across Singapore, this ranked near the top.

The food kept coming, and with every dish it got better and better. Like the crisp Aubergine With Chinese Green Beans, jumped up with the complex taste of ikan bilis to give it a curious hint of fish without detracting from the freshness of the veg. The aubergines were like french fries with a bad-ass attitude; a thin crunch on the outside leading to warm creamy flesh in the center and the perfect balance of salt. I never need potato fries again if I

can have these instead. The beans, crisp yet tender were tossed with the perfect balance of garlic and strings of the tiny dried anchovies which added a wondrous mouth feel. It was one of those unexpected dishes that haunts you with its flavor.

The gustatory onslaught continued; slabs of thick, tender Chinese Beef Steak in a thick, robust sauce that clung to the perfectly medium rare meat, so juicy and moist.

Then came what to many was a new experience: Steamed Shark Head. Now before the anti-shark fin establishment clicks away in repugnance it should be stated that this is not actually shark, but rather shovel nose ray - a plentiful creature of the sea. The cartilage, lined with the opaque, gelatinous

flesh which quivered between our chopsticks, gleamed within the pool of soy-based sauce infused with spices, garlic, scallions, fiery chili and -- if detection serves -- a hint of Sichuan peppercorn. While the powerful sauce was on the heavy side for the delicate "meat," obscuring its true, melt-in-your-mouth flavor and texture, it was nevertheless so good that, when the flesh was quickly gone we scooped spoonsful of the sauce onto rice and consumed it all, bringing the meal to a savory crescendo.

To gradually bring us down from our gustatory high the chef served Tai-O Bee Hoon noodles wrapped in Opeh leaf. At first glance its appearance was uninspiring; a bland, bleached pile of noodles with chunks of white meat -- dare I say frog -- and just a suspicion of green pepper and chili. Noodles are often the litmus test that separates a pretty good cook from a great one; that endless challenge to get just the right firmness to the noodle, infusing the flavor of the other ingredients and establishing a moist, almost creamy texture and a hint of wok hei. It's not easy and most never quite achieve it. But contrary to its insipid facade this dish exploded with flavor, delivering a creamy texture to the perfectly soft vermicelli; almost like a great char kway teow, but without the seafood addition. The small chunks of meat were soft and added even more bursts of juicy savoriness to the noodles, set off by the specks of red chili. It was as good a balance of salt, spice, bee hoon taste and meat as one could expect, and made us all agree breathlessly that, "Jeez, can this guy cook!"

But he wasn't finished with us just yet. Following on the heels of the bee hoon was another noodle delight -- Seafood Hor Fun on Opeh Leaf. Completely different from bee hoon, the hor fun noodles were wide and silky, slipping around in the beige sauce swimming with prawns, sliced fish, mushrooms and perfectly cooked fingers of squid. The sauce was slightly viscous and smooth, laden with specks of egg and baby kai lan greens along with a gentle yet pronounced smokiness thanks to the chef's mastery of the art of wok hei. Its comforting warmth and richness transported us closer to the safe and happy kitchen of our childhoods with every bite,

And to seal our palates with a gentle sweetness, a circle of Yam Paste was presented, divided into small bowls. The thick paste delivered a mild sweetness, thinned by the creamy pool in which it sat and setting our taste buds gently down to earth to mark the end of an exceptional meal.

G7 Sin Ma Live Seafood
161 Geylang Road (corner of Lorong 3)
Singapore 389239