Ministry of Crab Shanghai opened on the ground floor of the landmark Barbarossa in People’s Park in Oct 2019 and I had wanted try it since. It took another 2 years before I had the chance.
Ministry of Crab Shanghai is the first overseas branch of Sri Lanka’s famed Ministry of Crab. Before they came to town, the closest thing the Shanghainese got was Singapore chilli crab.
The restaurant was the brainchild of two national cricket players, captains Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena. Both are foodies and dreamt of owning their own restaurant, they roped in Dharshan Munidasa, the veteran restauranteur for this venture. Ministry of Crab was to become the first seafood restaurant in Colombo to get to Top 50 Restaurants in Asia (#29 in 2021).
The classy art-deco influenced black and white interiors of the restaurant reminded one of the British colonial clubhouses that one can find all over the Empire that used to be.
And in the evening when the Barbarosso is fully lit, it shines like a crystal lantern in the dark background of the People’s Park.
These Sri Lankan mud crabs (or lagoon crabs) weren’t the hottest dish on the menu in Sri Lanka, not because the Sri Lankan didn’t like them. Crabs caught in Sri Lankan waters are so prized in Singapore’s fine dining establishments that a single one can sell for hundreds of dollars. So all the big ones were exported for the valuable foreign exchange.
Ordering dinner in this restaurant involves two parameters – the size and the method of preparation.
The first thing anyone walking into Ministry of Crab notices is the menu — it is small, tightly edited and entirely centred around one main ingredient. That ingredient is the Sri Lankan mud crab. Everything was replicated for the same experience as their flagship in Colombo.
Colossal pepper crab
First you pick the size, which range from 500 g to over 2 kg per crab (Crabzilla!). Nothing less than 500g is captured for sustainability purpose.
Black pepper was the king of spice in Sri Lanka and all traditional curries were black. as Red Chilli was not native to the region. Colossal pepper crab which is made using hand crushed pepper corns (rolled on a traditional miris gala), whole peppercorns, and a pepper stock, fuses two ingredients endemic to Sri Lanka.
Prawnzilla garlic chilli style
Of course, there’s more than crab on offer in the menu. Another thing worth mentioning was their King Prawns. The size ranges from Big (150-200 g per prawn) to Prawnzilla (>550 g). This is a Prawnzilla size king prawn cooked in garlic chilli style
Sorry, there was a piece missing in this picture. My partner couldn’t resist the crispy and fragrant garlic bread when it was served. Bread used was similar to the ones the traditional kopitiam used in Singapore.
This starter of clams with butter and soy sauce was influenced by Japanese preparation. The clams were cooked just right and the bread was perfect to whop up the sauce.
The morning glory was stir-fried in a style that is familiar with any Singaporean – with belachan chilli. After a long period in quarantine, this familiar taste of home was gladly welcomed.
It is hard to place the influence for the green asparagus with garlic butter. The butter sauce is definitely French, but the garlic gave it the Asian touch. Perhaps we were full by the time this dish was served. We didn’t really enjoy it.
The surrounding for the restaurant is one of the best greenery in the CBD of Shanghai. The quiet oasis in the bustling cosmopolitan city is how the site of one of most popular foreign restaurant in Shanghai. Ministry of Crab hit it right on two notes – seafood and preparation. Shanghainese loves crab, and they love the exotic South Asia flavours. For me, it was a familiar taste that I grew up with.
Reservation is almost a must on the weekends, and if you want the larger crabs, ask in advance as it is a supply chain nightmare right now with the pandemic.
Ministry of Crab
Inside People’s Park, 1/F (Barbarossa), 231 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu
南京西路231号1楼, 人民公园内, 近黄陂南路
Tel: (021) 6318 0220
Date visited : Dec 2021