Harry’s Singapore Chilli Crab is a Sydney restaurant icon. Having opened in 1982, its fed half the city and almost all of its local celebrities at one time or another including famous names like Olympic swim star Dawn Fraser and pop Queens The Veronicas just to name a few. These days the restaurant sits within heritage-listed Wentworth House, adjoining Veriu Central hotel.
It is connected by an undercover courtyard that’s been cleverly repurposed as the theatrically-themed dumpling house, appearing as a cobble stoned street hawker market laneway, dressed in a layering of textures. Here hotel guests indulge in freshly-made chicken and prawn dumplings and an after five tipple. But we know better, we’re here for the crab.
The service is ultra fast and friendly thanks to restaurant director and host Andy Zhan. Andy has worked at Harry’s for more than 16 years and is a wealth of knowledge when it comes the very best FNQ mud crabs. In what feels like moments – literally three sips of Tsingtao beer – we’re delivered a crab paired with fried mantou: southern Chinese-style sweet buns, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They’re designed to soak up the fragrant and complex sweet and sour chilli crab sauce. The crab meat is extremely tender and sweet – seriously moorish! We choose Harry’s house-labelled Adelaide Hills Pinot Grigio which pairs well with the crab.
Harry’s authentic Singapore style chilli sauce or jam, we feel, is the restaurant’s secret to longevity and success. While the complete ingredients list remains a trade secret, Andy explains that finely chopped brown onions are slow cooked for hours, to make a base purée or paste. Added to this is red capsicum, tomatoes and red chilis. We guess the addition of brown sugar and rice wine vinegar adds a sweet and sour element; and perhaps a little freshly crushed garlic and a squeeze of lime adds further depth.
Crabs are steamed for seven minutes then wok tossed in the chilli jam. On average crabs range from 1.2kg-1.5kg and can comfortably make a decent meal for two – or 4 – with additional sides like the wonderfully light and fresh chicken san choy bow with crispy fried noodles, fresh shallots and coriander.
So how to tell a good crab from the bad? We asked Andy to share a few insights. He explains that the crabs are graded A, B and C, with the A grade having the highest meat content, and C grade presenting with a contents of mostly water, very little flesh. Andy says he can tell a good crab simply from its colour, strength and weight – ‘also with a few other trade secrets’, he explains with a grin. Fast, decadent and delicious, eating crab within Harry’s new digs remains a rewarding experience.
Harry’s Singapore Chilli Crab
188 Elizabeth St, Sydney NSW
Tel 02 9281 5565