Kevin does not prefer a family-style meal when eating with groups in a restaurant. He develops anxiety over how much constitutes his portion, whether he needs to leave room for more as-yet-unknown dishes still to come, he hates the idea of ordering for other people. I certainly appreciate all of those concerns, but the potential awkwardness is always offset by the opportunity to try SO MUCH FOOD when dining at tapas or family style restaurants. But remember that time we went out for Dim Sum, he'll remind me, prepared to tell me just how much he did not appreciate sharing the table with strangers.
And so I casually mentioned to him that I was pretty sure the menu at Fatty Crab was designed for sharing, waiting until the maitre d' had already taken our names and told us there was a half hour wait for a party of four. Kevin nodded, accepting the information, and promised to be a good sport.
I don't use the word 'sport' lightly, because dining at Fatty Crab turned out to be quite an event -- we met Dan and Rebecca and upon being seated were given the rundown by our waitress, the rundown being "Order as a Group", and "Food Comes in No Particular Order". Rebecca and I took charge of the ordering; the husbands ordered "Fatty" beers for themselves (beers are Skinny or Fatty, 12 oz. or uh, Much Bigger) and we started with glasses of the $7/glass Gruner Veltliner (our waitress also explained that most of the wines were on the sweet side to balance the spicy Malaysian menu).
And then the food started coming. While I am fine with sharing food (especially with close friends with whom I have no qualms about taking the last bite of anything), I do have issues pacing myself, and as dishes started appearing I felt compelled to eat FASTER so that there would be room on the table (and our plates) for whatever was brought to our table next. And, not being familiar with the menu led to some guessing as to how MUCH to order -- even knowing that we could always order additional dishes, I still over-ordered for our table of four, I think.
Spicy dishes were being placed in front of us, my hands grew sticky, the bar area filled up and the room grew hotter (although the chilis were probably just as responsible for my sweaty brow). WHEW, we each exclaimed at one point or another. Crab was flying out of its shell and across the table. Sticky chicken wings fell off plates. We paused for a breather, then attacked again. This is FLAVOR NATION, Dan said. I shoveled coconut rice into my mouth to cool the most recent burning. Is there MORE coming, Kevin asked, reaching for a wet nap.
Eventually plates were cleared and the dust settled. WHEW! we all said again.
And so, as best I can remember, here is a brief recap of what we ate:
- Fatty Duck – brined, steamed, fried: WICKED GOOD, served over rice, crispy and spicy and totally delicious
- Jalan Alor Chicken Wings: Meh, too sticky and messy for my taste, am not really a wings fan, too much work for not enough reward but the sticky sauce was a nice balance of sweet and tangy
- Chili Crab – dungeoness crab, chili sauce, white toast: the signature dish -- I am a HUGE dungeoness crab fan, and while I liked the chili curry sauce the crab came in, I prefer my crab unardorned. As far as chili crab goes, this was the best I've had, and the crispy toast was DELICIOUS soaked with the chili sauce, but I like crab to taste like crab and nothing else. Still, if you go to Fatty Crab, you have to get the chili crab -- it's an impressive dish, very satisfying, with many layors of flavor along with the rich crab meat. Be warned -- it is also A LOT of work to attack this dish. A lot of MESSY work.
- Short Rib Rendang – braised with kaffir lime, coconut, chili: the coconut and lime gave a nice kick to the short ribs, balancing the heat of the chilis with sweet and sour (as was the case with most of the dishes), the meat was tender but not too fatty.
- Spicy Mango Salad with peanuts: Refreshing and crispy and crunchy, perfect palate-cleanser, I could eat this every single day. Yum. Heavy on cilantro, which I love, but cilantro-haters, beware.
- Steamed Pork Buns: A favorite indulgence of mine when we eat Dim Sum, these were slightly different than what I expected. The fluffy, sweet steamed bun was folded over one piece of seared pork (and FATTY pork at that; Dan's piece was basically pork-flavored fat) and toppings were on the side, meant to be assembled into a tiny sandwich at the table. There was (more) cilantro, pickled carrots, a quartered hard-boiled egg and chilis, along with a (I think) soy sauce to drizzle over the entire sandwich. Heaven. Carbs wrapped around fat almost always make me happy.
There may have been another dish but I lost track and went into a food coma somewhere around the crab. A happy food coma.
Fatty Crab is small, crowded, casual, and decorated with a steamy Asian aesthetic -- red walls, retro fans, clusters of mismatched chopsticks. It's dining as Event, and while I wouldn't recommend visiting Fatty Crab on a first date (we all left with crab splattered across our chests and sticky sauce dotting our arms), I would recommend visiting for the sheer experience.
Small plates run from $6 to $12 (apprx); the larger dishes run up to $20 and the chili crab is $28. Our bill, for the food mentioned above plus 4 glasses of wine and 4 beers, came to $200 including tax and tip.
Fatty Crab is located at 643 Hudson Street and accepts all major credit cards. They do not accept reservations.
MY IDEAL FATTY CRAB MEAL:
STEAMED PORK BUNS