(between 76th and 77th)
New York, NY 10024
A’s sister’s friend, Ch, brought us out to Fatty Crab for dinner the day we landed in NYC. We had helped her bring (quite literally, shit loads of stuff) from London where she was based for the past 2 years to NYC since she was starting out on her 2 year programme at Columbia.
Fatty crab serves South-East Asian-ish food. The restaurant itself looks and feels hardly like what you would expect a South-East Asian restaurant to be like. It seemed more like a happening bar/pub/club than a restaurant, with seriously loud blaring music (it was so loud we had to shout across the table into each others’ ears to be heard, like you would do in a club) and almost entirely non-Asian servers. Yet, people around us were feasting on chilli crab, eating off those stereotypical red and white patterned plastic plates and bowls. It was truly a curious juxtaposition.
We ordered quite a lot of food as usual. Perhaps we were trying to use food as a cure for jetlag (and in case you’re wondering, no, it didn’t help – we KO-ed the moment we got back to out hotel, and woke up ridiculously early the next morning).
We had a serving of Black Pepper Clams, which we didn’t like very much. The black pepper sauce was too buttery and creamy, which was completely the wrong way to do a black pepper dish, if you call yourself a South-East Asian restaurant.
The Chilli Crab was better, with pretty nice flavours, but we felt that it was still a little creamy. (Creamy sauces are quite rare in Asian cooking, but very common in Western cooking.) Also, we balked at the choice of bread. In authentic Singaporean Chilli Crab you’re served alongside your Chilli Crab, a plate of fried buns (mantou) to soak up the wonderful sauce with. At Fatty Crab, we were given some thick slices of white toast.
Our Kangkong Belacan was miles better. This was very close to the version we have at home. It was just a shame that it came in such a small portion! Finally, we had a Whole Fish Bakar. This was excellent. The fish was very well seasoned, and perfectly cooked.
It’s hard to judge a restaurant like this. Being from South-East Asia, we understand the flavours of the region very well. Hence we tend to put a lot of emphasis on the authenticity of the dishes rather than on taste. From an objective standpoint, the dishes were all pretty good, with two standouts – the vegetable dish and the fish. However, having said that, the 2 other dishes weren’t bad, they were just not what we expected them to be. Overall then I guess Fatty Crab does a reasonably good job with the food, but it has a long way to go before it can truly do justice to the flavours of South-East Asia.
And also, it wouldn’t hurt to turn the volume down a bit. If I wanted loud blaring music I would go to a club, not a restaurant.