Intrigued by Zak Pelaccio’s brand of Malaysian cuisine at Fatty ‘Cue, we couldn’t leave New York without trying the flagship of his original franchise, Fatty Crab. Located on Hudson Street in the Meatpacking district, the small walk-in joint (a former Laundromat) with its shabby worn-in wooden tables, disposable chopsticks, cheap oriental plastic plates and sunlight streaming in from the swing out windows, immediately transported us to South East Asia.
We started lunch with crunchy Green Mango Dips – fat fingers of unripe mango served with a dip of sugar, salt and chilli powder; just as one would get from street carts in many cities in Asia.
Tea Sandwiches didn’t look very exciting, but tasted pretty great. I usually balk at the sight of white sandwich loaf but the simple soft bread worked well to complement the filling of slow-cooked lamb, fermented tofu and green chilli.
Quail Egg Shooters were a progression of virtually raw quail eggs capped with toppings of increasing heat – from a fiery pungent belachan to a sweet homemade sriracha. Fun to pop but difficult to share. Mark Hix loved these so much when he ate at Fatty Crab that he created a western version which graces the menu at several of his establishments.
The legendary Watermelon and Pork Belly Salad, now synonymous with Pelaccio, was a complete revelation – who would have thought that the unlikely combination of fresh watermelon, pickled watermelon rind, crisp pork belly (slow-braised for hours before being tossed in the deep-fryer) and addictive ginger dressing would mesh so splendidly?
Naturally we had to try the (other) signature dish of Chilli Crab, especially after our waitress raved about how fantastic it was. Fatty Crab’s rendition bore no resemblance to the sweet, egg-laced Singaporean Chilli Crab I know and love, leaning more towards a Malaysian sambal number. The intense gravy was extremely tasty and I had to stop myself from heaping it all on to the thick triangles of toasted white before even getting stuck into the shellfish. Annoyingly the crab wasn’t pre-cracked and we were given crackers to do the dirty work ourselves. It was no easy task and caused much anxiety (I was wearing a white tee) but the sweet soft meat within was worth the effort.
All in all we found the dishes at Fatty Crab a lot more balanced and coherent than those at its sister restaurant. I also preferred the more chilled out vibe and slightly rickety interiors. But really the only reason you need to eat here is that crispy pork belly and watermelon salad. End of.
643 Hudson Street
(between Horatio and Gansevoort)
New York, NY 10014