Jan 24, 2009


turf city last night, for the parents' anniversary. what used to be singapore's horse-racing complex is now a mouldering concrete edifice perched on the edge of encroaching jungle. there is plenty of parking once you make it in from swiss club road, and its hard to believe that this gigantic crumbling space is minutes away from some of the most expensive real estate on the island.

there's a cluster of enormous seafood restaurants on the second floor, all of which are stocked with pale pink cotton-polyester tablecloths, formica lazy susans, metal banquet chairs with PVC cushions, and brown carpet tile. the carpet's distinctive smell immediately brought me back to those chinese restaurants that used to exist in the shopping complexes in old HDB estates in central singapore--a combination of wet dog and spilled soy sauce. we got settled on the balcony overlooking the old racetrack (now with a large crevasse in the central field from which several trees protrude), then went out to the mezzanine to inspect the array of saltwater tanks containing a variety of live fish and crustaceans looking doomed and resigned.

tasty treats.

the two men holding court manhandle the seafood you choose, still alive and thrashing violently, into plastic bags that end up in your personal shopping basket. this is especially comic when frogs are being harvested from their little bin. normally quite placid, they become panicky and kinetic the instant they are touched and leap immediately out of the bag as soon as they are tossed inside. the bins are lined up in front of the tanks, jittering and sometimes falling over, to be taken away and weighed in the kitchens before you choose the style in which they are to be cooked. we had barely-cooked white saltwater prawns in chinese wine with goji berries and angelica root, a perfectly-steamed marble goby with salted vegetables and spring onions, sri lankan crab in chili sauce (unbelievably messy), a baked canadian lobster, oysters, geoduck clams with spring onions and ginger, and raw scallops topped with a seething mass of oil, garlic, and chives.

then we got up and rolled home.

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