Shanghai Restaurant Review: Ministry of Crab

By Cristina Ng, December 28, 2018

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The Place

After months of renovation, Barbarossa has recently unveiled a new look to their famous People’s Park location and introduced a brand new concept to the mix. Occupying the first floor of their Arabian-style building, Ministry of Crab – one of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants from Colombo, Sri Lanka – is now serving their famously large crustaceans in a variety of ways. If you’ve been struggling to find high-quality seafood that is comically large, you’re in luck.

Chef Dharshan Munidasa helms the original crab lovers’ haven. For the award-winning restaurant’s first venture outside Sri Lanka, they’ve sent over Chef Vimukthi, who’s worked with Munidasa for years, to oversee the kitchen.

The Food

Obviously, you are here for the crab, and you have your choice of sizes from half-a-kilo (RMB288) to the two-kilogram beast they refer to as Crabzilla (RMB1,988 plus RMB150 for each additional 100g).

For two people, the sensible choice is a ‘Kilo Krab’ (RMB788) or two Medium Crabs (RMB488) if you want to sample more than one of their preparation methods: pepper, chili, curry, garlic chili, garlic, garlic pepper, Sichuan peppercorn and plain old butter.

Sri Lanka is famous for black pepper, and before red chili became more widely used, traditional curries from the country were black. So if you are looking for authenticity, you’ve got to try the hand-crushed peppercorn and pepper stock sauce variation. This is probably the best pairing with the meaty and succulent crustacean. 

Image by Cristina Ng/That's 

Dig through the legs and claws and you’ll be rewarded with the sweet flesh, as well as custardy innards and briny juices from the shell. Mix them into the rich, ink-colored gravy and fold all the yumminess into a bowl of rice, et voila.

We’ve heard so much about the fabled ‘Prawnzilla’ (RMB368, over 500 grams), but they are not currently available due to quality control issues. In fact, out of six sizes listed, only the two smallest prawns were available during our visit: ‘Big’ (RMB118, 150-250 grams) and ‘Huge’ (RMB138, 200-250 grams).

Image by Cristina Ng/That's 

The smaller prawns, however, were still pretty satisfying served with same addictive garlic chili mixture that coats the crab. You’ll be forgiven for expecting a thick, tomato-based sauce popularized by Singapore since so many of the largest Sri Lankan crustaceans end up there, but this is a seasoning made of Italian olive oil, Japanese soy sauce, garlic and chili flakes. You will want to add char-grilled Garlic Bread (RMB28) for dipping.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's 

Chicken Curry with Rice (RMB88) is a common Sri Lankan meal, and Ministry of Crab has a version that is well worth ordering. Served with Japanese sticky rice (Munidasa is part Japanese and his restaurant Nihonbashi also does quite well on the food awards circuit in Colombo), this dish features big chunks of protein swimming in a fragrant broth. It’s served with a coconut and chili condiment called pol sambal freshly scraped on order.  

Food Verdict: 2.5/3 

The Vibe

Although the lakeside restaurant is beautifully adorned in the lush bohemian décor that Barbarossa is known for, the atmosphere could use a bit more personality. We don’t know about you, but when we eat with our hands, we expect things to be more fun. That being said, the seafood is undeniably excellent, so bring a group of crab-loving friends to kick things up a notch, because food this good is worth an occasional splurge.  

Vibe Verdict: 1.5/2

Total Verdict: 4/5

Price: RMB400-600 per person                    
Who’s going: Business travelers from neighboring hotels and fancy local families
Good for: Gargantuan crustaceans in flavorsome sauces

[Cover image courtesy Ministry of Crab]

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See a listing for Ministry of Crab. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews

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