JB Ah Meng is one of the popular zichar stall that is well-loved even by celebrities and chefs. I've heard about it many years back but didn't really made a point to visit until a foodie friend recommended this place again. Moreover since it was awarded Bib Gourmand this year, I decided bring the family down for a weekend dinner.
Perhaps due to hearing too much positive ravings about this place, I set my expectations too high. For our table of 5, we ordered the signature San Lou Bee Hoon (large-$14), which was served like a giant flattened pancake with rare sights of dark blistered marks. Perhaps I got the illusion that this was like the chao dar bee hoon from Yong Kee Seafood and thus I was a little upset that it doesn't boast any crispy aromatic char exterior or edges.
If you perceive it as a fried bee hoon, then it's a well-executed one that is neither too greasy not salty, though there nothing particularly outstanding that would make me come back again for it. I still prefer something "chao dar" or burnt like the version from Yong Kee Seafood.
Another disappointing dish was the Salted Egg Prawn Ball ($20) that many people have sung praises on. This was the last dish to be served as it was deep-fried in one single batch and portioned into the number of orders. Unfortunately the prawns were over-fried and very chewy, with barely any egg yolk emulsion clinging onto the fried batter. The mini sweet corn fritters was nice touches to balance the savoury flavors but it is not too difficult to find better renditions in other zichar stall.
The Garlic Chili Clams aka La La (Large $30) was fragrant and had a strong garlicky taste in the "zhup" (sauce found at the base) but too salty on its own that I can't taste the sweetness of the shellfish. Likewise for the Fried Fish Head (Small $16) which boasted a good wok hei but would be nice if it could cut back on the sodium.
Our favourite dish turned out to be the under-rated Ginger Onion Deer Meat (Small /$20). The meat was utterly smooth, tender, with generous amount of spring onions and caramelized chunky onions that introduced pleasant sweet notes to the dish.
Another dish worth ordering is the Deep Fried Fish Skin (Small $12). Most places do them simply in salt and pepper or salted egg yolk style but the crispy fish skins here are served in sweet Thai-style pickled papayas dressing which made them even more perky and moreish. It was also my first time seeing both the Snake Beans with Lotus Root (S/$12) and Thai-style Cabbage (S/$12) served at zichar places. It was more interesting and enjoyable to have deep-fried lotus roots chips that worked like crispy toppings rather than everything thrown into the wok with the snake beans.
I was very curious when I spotted the Thai-style Cabbage on the menu and it turned out quite different from what I expected. The cabbage was stir-fried with some chilli padi and crunchy ikan billis before topping with chewy cuttlefish that have been toasted to a nice firmness. However, it wasn't spicy at all and tasted quite similar to the Snake Beans dish except that it was slightly more saucy with hints of sour notes. Not too sure if this was meant to be a sour-spicy dish but it would be good if it was had been one.
Last but not least, the Signature White Pepper Crab (market price) which was decent and could be more peppery. I couldn't remember much about this dish except for the fresh, meatiness of the claws.
Try to avoid weekends as the kitchen struggles to deal with the full-packed tables and takeaway orders. Despite being the first customers during dinner service on a weekend, we had to wait around 45 min-1 hour because the kitchen had to settle the takeaway orders.
I can understand why this place is so popular because the food is not too expensive and tastes not bad. However, the deliciousness hasn't reach the level that would compel a revisit in the near future.
JB Ah Meng
2 Geylang Lorong 23
Daily 5.30pm-3am (Do note that they may postpone opening hour to 6pm at times)