Fatty Crab

2170 Broadway
New York, New York


5 Second Summary:
Price Range- Appetizers $6-13, Entrees ($16-22) at time of posting
Ambiance- Lounge-y cool (think lots of red)
Cuisine- Southeast Asian with a strong Malaysian influence
Hits- Desserts, good service
Misses- Seriously imbalanced heat in several dishes (bring the Tums!)

The occasion was a cozy dinner with my college friend, Donna.  In our years at Manhattan College, we spent more hours than I care to count (some of which were supposed to be in class) recounting the dramas of our lives over beers and burgers at the Piper’s Kilt on 231st Street.  You could say that our friendship was cemented by food, and that love of food grew proportionally as full-time employment afforded us the luxury of sharing meals that involved stars on the walls instead of sawdust on the floors.  (Don’t get me wrong- P.K. still has the best burger this side of Bronx, but this post isn’t about P.K., now is it?) With college graduation ten years behind us (yikes!), our dinner was opportunity for me to ask Donna to be one of my bridesmaids in our July wedding.  (She said yes.)  🙂

We walked the few blocks from Donna’s apartment to Fatty Crab’s Upper West Side location.  It was still warm enough for us to sit outside; it was still early enough that we got a great people-watching bistro table on the street.  From minute one, our waiter was knowledgeable and uber-helpful; I was duly impressed by Fatty Crab’s special “allergy” menu, which detailed the ingredients and common allergens in each dish.

Eyes bigger than our stomachs, we first ordered cocktails.  Mine was a refreshing combination of watermelon, cachaca, and aromatic kaffir lime.  Cachaca, which was first introduced to me in the form of caipirinhas mixed by a Brazilian college friend, is a liquor I had trouble finding until recently.  Basically a rum variation, cachaca is clear; it is made from fermented sugar cane rather than molasses and has a mild taste and a smell that reminds me of green plantains.  Many of today’s “capirinihas” have some variation of rum or vodka in them, but the taste of cachaca makes a distinct difference.  With the sharp acid of the kaffir lime, this drink was clean and cool.

With its decidedly Malaysian influence, I was eager to indulge in this particular flavor profile.  We split several small, promising dishes.  The first to arrive was Jalan Alor chicken wings, presumably named for the famous food street in Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Bintang neighborhood.  These barbeque-flavored wings looked fabulous and were beautifully plated.  Served piping hot, they were tasty, but they definitely looked better than they tasted.  I had expected huge, bold flavor… or, failing that, at least the homey natural chicken jus.  I got neither.

Next were steamed pork and vegetable buns, served so hot that I burned my tongue and was gun-shy on bite two.  Again, they were beautifully presented with nutty, earthy mushroom flavors, cilantro, and jalapeno.

We also tried fatty sliders: mini beef and pork burgers with Russian dressing and fat pickle slices.  These thick sliders, with their tauntingly toasted buns, looked so good that I dove right in… only to come up with a very odd piece of cartilage in the first bite.  Ew.  Napkin… aaaaand bite two.  The jalapeno was so strong that it overwhelmed everything else and brought tears to my eyes.  Nose running, I grabbed at the bread to try and calm my sinuses.  I wanted so badly to taste rich meat and onion flavors.  I gave it a second try, hoping I’d missed something, but it only amplified the effect of the heat.  Donna also left these relatively untouched, and we wound up neglecting them for the rest of the meal.

Our “favorite,” by far, was the chicken clay pot- nutty, smoky, gingery, with green chilis, tofu, some sort of corn starch thickener, and a very subtle heat.  My tongue was on burn notice after the sliders, so this was a welcome change.  With a little recovery time, though, the chicken clay pot seemed a little oily and bland.  It was beautifully presented, and I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did.  It was what I ate most of, but that isn’t saying much.

Now there’s nothing I love more than pickled watermelon, and when you tell me you’re going to add crispy pork to it, well, I can’t help but be won over.  This pickle had great brine and salt with a little too much heat for my taste.  The pork was delicious with ginger, sriracha, and sesame, and a thick, tasty layer of fat.

The meal’s slow build of heat reached “un-ignorable,” and I was so thrilled when the waiter placed a complimentary coconut panna cotta in front of us, that I forgot to take a photo.  My haste attests to (1) the deliciousness of this dish (2) the dire need for some dairy to tone down the fire in my throat.  The panna cotta revealed cucumber, kiwi, raisin, and nut flavors; it was original, clean, and not overly sweet.

We also had a fabulous moshi cake with blueberries, honey, condensed milk, and coconut milk.

Having seen the restaurant’s homemade chocolate bars on the menu, one caught my eye: bitter chocolate, almonds, chili, pralines, and salt.  You’d think I’d turn the other way and run from any more chili, but I took the risk and was duly rewarded.  The chocolate was nothing short of sexy. Deep, rich, and delicious cocoa flavors with nuts and grains of salt like belated birthday gifts- you never knew when you were going to get one but were always pleased when you did.  Best, the smoky chilies were a delicate kiss– no, not even– more like a brush of the lips or the fragrance that lingers when a beautiful person leaves the room.  The chili was so subtle, and it danced with the chocolate in perfect synchronicity.  Who knew that the best item on the menu would be… the chocolate bar?

In all honesty, I so wanted to like Fatty Crab more than I did.  Chef Zak Pelaccio is New York City’s darling, a trendy chef and a purist that you might still see at the Greenmarket, replicating Southeast Asian cooking with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.  It seems like everyone loves Fatty Crab… except me.  The service was great, the ingredients were all there, the profile seemed to fit perfectly, but all said and done- I was never much impressed with any one dish.  It’s likely that Chef Pelaccio was at one of his other restaurants today.  Or perhaps I caught the “Crab” on an off day.  Maybe I need to check out the Hudson Street location.  At any rate, this visit didn’t leave me hungering for more.

2 Responses to “Fatty Crab”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: