Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fatty Crab

My mom and I were in Manhattan last weekend. Originally, we had tickets to see that Spider-Man musical, but the opening was delayed because Spider-Man flew into a wall or something. So instead, we had a leisurely stroll around Manhattan. Stops for the day included: the New York Public Library, Bryant Park to see the ice skaters, and the highly anticipated high-end Italian market Eataly in the hopes of sampling something delicious (note to self: in the future visit Eataly on a weekday, say early a.m., if you don’t want to get trampled by others hoping to sample something delicious—we were in and out of there in less than a half hour due to the crowd).

Around 3 p.m., after a brisk stroll along the High Line, stomachs growling due to the mob scene at Eataly, we walked the few short blocks east to Hudson Street, thinking it was finally an opportune time to visit the tiny, no reservations Malaysian hipster hotspot, Fatty Crab.

We had a good feeling about this Fatty Crab almost immediately. Upon entering, we received a warm welcome from a smiling, unassuming waiter. The restaurant is tiny, the very definition of “hole in the wall.” A corner bar is manned by a hippy-version of Ryan Renolds, with a small kitchen window to his right. Bright red walls, exposed brick, a tin ceiling, and worn wooden floors give off an aura of “I’m-not-trying-too-hard-despite-my-reputation-of-Awesome.”

Given the few patrons at 3 p.m., we were seated right by the front window, a Fatty Crab delivery bicycle parked outside.

We started with Steamed Pork Buns ($13):
I think the picture says it all.

Well, NOW the picture says it all:
I am a SUCKER for a soft, squishy steamed bun, and these buns delivered. Piping hot, soft as clouds, the perfect conduit for succulent pork belly. It’s served with a hard-boiled egg, pickled radish, and a tangy-yet-somewhat spicy dipping sauce.

Here is the Watermelon and Crispy Pork ($16):
At the time, I think my mom and I were under the impression we were ordering an entrée, but now I think this dish fell under Appetizers with our pork buns. Which makes sense, given our waiter brought this out after the buns, but before our entrée. A small matter. The lesson learned was simple: Crispy pork belly and watermelon is the Future. Who knew these two could be such a duo? The pork crunches satisfyingly before melting on the tongue, the watermelon gives a burst of refreshing sweetness. A glorious dish, albeit a small one.

Sadly, this is when we should’ve left Fatty Crab (ie: on top).

Take a good, hard look at the Nasi Lemak ($21), aka, the worst dish I’ve had in years.
Nasi Lemak is described on the menu as “coconut rice, chicken curry, slow poached egg.” On the left are two pieces of fried chicken, a wing and a leg. It was not remarkable fried chicken, but it did taste like fried chicken in its defense (wasn’t it supposed to be curry, though?). There were also some spiced peanuts buried underneath the chicken that were tasty. The shimmering poached egg on the coconut rice wasn’t terrible; the egg, coupled with the creaminess of coconut, just ended up being too creamy and rich. Not a pleasant combination, especially paired with the stuff in the middle, which is what we really took issue with: a fish cake in banana leaves that was extremely fishy-smelling and off-putting. What type of fish was it? I think the waiter said it was a “combination of leftovers” which should’ve been our first clue something was up, but he also went on to say it was made “fresh” daily. There was a little pile of dried anchovies that were fun, but next to it, a dark pile of sambal belacan—chilies, shrimp paste, sugar and lime juice—that was beyond fishy. It smelled off; I tasted it anyway, but it tasted like it smelled. Nasi Lemak: FAIL. Keep in mind: this was my first Malaysian meal. I’m merely telling you my personal feelings on Nasi Lemak (in essence: I was horrified).

The staff, initially on their best behavior, were now acting kind of erratic, as well. What started out as a warm, welcoming feel, was quickly dissolving into the weird and eccentric. Our waiter was conversing loudly with diners behind us, the word “porn” coming up over and over.

We were still somewhat scarred by the Nasi Lemak when our waiter arrived with our bill. There was no offering of a dessert menu (maybe he sensed the last dish didn’t go over well), but he did leave us with two slices of coconut-flavored mochi. They had an unexpected, slightly salty aftertaste, which was wonderful paired with the sweetness of the rice cakes. This lifted our spirits.

I’m left slightly mystified by Fatty Crab. How could a restaurant that served two exceptional, knock-your-socks-off dishes, send out such a BOMB? And what of the vibe? Is it warm or wacky?

Jury’s out.

Fatty Crab
643 Hudson St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 352-3590


  1. Fatty Crab doesn't serve dessert.

  2. Fatty Crab does serve dessert - there are three listed on their menu: Fatty Bars, Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate.

  3. The image of the talking pork buns is hilarious.

  4. The apps sounded amazing- I can't believe the horror of a third dish :( I was even thinking I might want to try Malaysian (big step for me!). Entertaining as always Sharon :)

  5. Hmmm. Those of us who only know you blogospherically have yet to find out how you did in your race...

  6. Man 'O the West: I rocked it! And by "rocked," I mean I "completed" them. lol. I'm training for a 10K now, and hope to improve on my 5K times.
    My first race was the Windham Warrior Dash - obstacles like leaping over fire and swimming through mud - one of the funnest days ever! The second was at Binghamton, in memory of my college roommate, one of the greatest individuals I have ever known. Definitely going to stick with the running, in memory of her!

  7. I knew you'd do it! Very good, you have every reason to be pleased and encouraged.

    Years ago, as a Marine, I ran on a regular basis. In my civilian life, I ran several 5Ks, a cross-country 5K, and a couple of 15Ks. I only mention this because one year, when I was on the verge of running my third 15K (we have one each year here in Tulsa), we had a bad week.

    A really bad week. I didn't run a lick, and for some reason, didn't do it again for years. It's just a cautionary note to the effect you have to be careful not to let your routine get disrupted too much.

    I have been doing RyuTe (Okinawan karate) for a couple of years now, but am planning on adding just a few miles of running back into the mix. I may do that 15K next fall.

    In the meantime, again, you did well and have every reason to be proud! And your food blogging still rocks.