Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fatty Crab

I want you to imagine the following restaurant. The restaurant is in the West Village, as close as you can get to the Meatpacking District without technically being in the MPD. It's prone to very long waits to get a table at prime times. It's owned by a fairly well-known chef. This restaurant serves Asian cuisine, but neither the chef nor any of the staff are Asian.

So what are your assumptions of the above restaurant? If you are like me, you're thinking that the restaurant is surely an Asian fusion hell-hole serving expensive overly sweet dishes to hordes of tourists, bridge and tunnelers, and gossip girls who care only about the scene and nothing about the food.

Fatty Crab fits my description, but completely defied my assumptions. Instead, I found a restaurant serving authentically flavored dishes inspired by Malaysian street food at a decent price for such a popular restaurant in the West Village.

My girlfriend and I ordered dishes from each section of the menu, all under $15. From the "Snacks" section, we tried the Fatty Sliders, two intensely spiced pork and beef patties served on potato rolls with a cucumber and sambal aioli. While the dish itself may not be something you can find on the streets of Malaysia, the flavors were not dumbed down at all; the fish sauce, galangal, and coriander that flavored the meat was discernable.

From the "Salads" section of the menu, we ordered the watermelon pickle and crispy pork salad. For me, this was the overall winner of the night. The wonderful flavor combination of watermelon topped with pieces of crispy pork belly is definitely something I will try to recreate this summer for a picnic in Central Park.

We also ordered the Malay Fish Fry from the "Noodles/Soups/Rice" section. The nicely fried fish was served over rice in a spicy curry that went heavy on the fish sauce, a good thing in my book.

Finally, from the "Fatty's Specialies" portion of the menu, we tried the fatty duck, a steamed and fried duck served over toasted rice in a slightly sweet sauce. My girlfriend found the sauce to be too sweet, but I enjoyed it; the sauce was closer to a Vietnamese caramel sauce than to a gloppy Asian fusion sauce.

One of the main criticisms of Fatty Crab is with the pacing of the meal. The complaint is that dishes come at all times, in all orders, which is exactly what happened on my visit: the duck was served first, followed by the sliders, the watermelon salad, and finally came the fish fry. However, our helpful waiter informed us of the pacing and random order or courses prior to taking our order, so it did not catch us by surprise. The only surprise was in wondering what the next dish to arrive would be, which added a fun element to our dinner.

Of course, the best surprise was Fatty Crab itself. I was ready to write off the restaurant before I had even arrived, but after my one meal there, I will definitely return. I certainly was not expecting a decent value and delicious food, but that is exactly what Fatty Crab delivered.

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