New eats: Ministry of Crab, one of Asia's top restaurants, makes waves in Manila

Joko Magalong-De Veyra

Posted at Feb 26 2019 08:06 AM

Ministry of Crab Manila stays true to the tenets of its Sri Lankan home branch. Photo by author

MANILA -- Ministry of Crab Manila at Shangri-La at the Fort has been making waves in the local culinary scene since its opening earlier this year. 

To date, the restaurant continues to win diners, thanks not only to its culinary pedigree (its home branch in Sri Lanka ranks No. 25 on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants), but also because it seemingly fills a seafood culinary void in the manila food scene, especially in Bonifacio Global City. 

While being the only Ministry of Crab restaurant affiliated with a hotel, the Manila branch stays true to the Ministry of Crab’s tenets. 

Sam Gallardo, director of communications for Shangri-La at the Fort, said going local and sustainable were two things that chef Dharsan Munidasa always considered non-negotiable when opening a new Ministry of Crab in any country. 

Ministry of Crab's chef de Partie Shane Sammandapperuma. Photo by author

Other tenets in its "constitution" includes a promise of only serving fresh and export quality seafood, its abhorrence to freezing seafood of any kind, as well as a reminder to the diner on the richness of marine diversity Philippines, to name a few. 

The restaurant claims to never to take shortcuts in its produce, emphasizing the beauty of its ingredients. With interiors that evoke a modern plantation feel, with high ceilings, dark wood furnishings, and muted lighting, dining in the Ministry feels at once urbane and primal, especially when you start eating your seafood with your hands. 

Curious? Treat yourself to any of these mouthwatering dishes at the Ministry of Crab. 

1. Clams 


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Start your meal with something light. Butter and soy sauce are a magical Japanese concoction and adding fresh clams to the mix makes for a delicious light starter. (Although if you eat the leftover butter sauce with the house bread, it’s also a filling way to start your meal.)

2. King Prawns

Garlic King Prawns. Photo by author

Who doesn’t love king prawns? With sizes that range from 150 grams for the "big prawn," to a whopping 400-500g for the "Prawnzilla," these large-headed crustaceans make for juicy and tasty eating at the Ministry. 

With seven ways that it can be prepared, we had ours simply with garlic and oil, and this author is unabashedly proud of her intense delight in sucking the essential marrow of the sea from her garlic prawn head. Indeed, I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

3. Pepper Crab

Pepper Crabs. Photo by author

Crabs are the stars of the restaurant, and they come in all sizes here. Crustacean heads are mounted on the wall and lit-up to indicate if the crab size is available. And while the Sri-Lankan restaurant has about six ways to cook this glorious crustacean, the Ministry of Crab Manila has all these plus two other options with some local flavor -- there’s the Pinakurat crab, which is steamed and flavored with spicy vinegar; and the Guinataang crab, which has crabs cooked in coconut milk and chilies. 

But if it’s your first time at the ministry, we highly recommend going with their Pepper Crab -- dark and rich, with black pepper that’s both earthy and spicy mingling with succulent sweet crab meat making for a mouthful of gustatory bliss. 

In the Ministry, you are encouraged to eat with your hands (finger bowls are available), and you’ve got an arsenal of equipment on hand to help you do so. And while many may opt to eat this pinnacle of pepper crab delight with bread, our Filipino hearts sang when we were given a cup of Japanese white rice. The sauce with some white rice, on its own, is already a must-try. 

4. Warm Rice Pudding

Warm Rice Pudding. Photo by author

After such a filling and decadent meal, how would you punctuate its end? You can go cool and creamy with the Pistachio Kulfi with cashew and a light biscotti, or you can go warm and rich like the Warm Rice Pudding. 

The latter is an exclusive dessert to the Philippines, and a bite has light vanilla pudding with added texture and flavor from almonds and strawberries. The crowning glory of this dessert though is its topping of burnt rice ice cream -- a flavor which translates to something earthy, but not bitter, and very local as burnt rice "coffee" is a common coffee substitute in Philippines (especially in Bicol). 

Ministry of Crab Manila has its own entrance separate from the main lobby of the hotel at 30th Street corner 5th Avenue in Taguig City.

Ministry of Crab Manila is located at Shangri-La at the Fort. Photo by author