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Fatty Crab

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  • Cuisine: Malaysian
  • Vibe: Funky UWS bustle
  • Occasion: Neighborhood bites, casual date, kid-friendly
  • Don’t Miss: Scallop satay, short rib Rendang, watermelon pickle & crispy pork
  • Price: Appetizers $7, entrees $1
  • Reservations: Accepted
  • Phone: (212) 496-2722
  • Location: 2970 Broadway, between 76th and 77th Sts.

I think you can taste when the chef’s not in the kitchen. On the
chef’s night off, the food’s never quite the same. It’s a little like
going to the theater and finding out you got stuck with the understudy.

Of course, at a restaurant, they never tell you that kind of
thing. Can you imagine? The server hands you a menu and says, “Welcome
to Fatty Crab. Tonight, the part of the chef will be played by one of
the line cooks. Can I get you a cocktail?”

That’s how I felt
the last time I ate at Fatty Crab, a funky Malaysian joint on the edge
of the Meatpacking district. I don’t know whether the chef, Zakary Pelaccio,
was there that night, but it tasted like he wasn’t. I always loved
their watermelon pickle and crispy pork appetizer, but this time I
hardly recognized it.

The watermelon was pale pink and stringy,
the pork belly, chewy and soggy. But the chef, Zakary, is definitely in
the kitchen at the new Fatty Crab, which opened on the Upper West Side
a month ago. Here, the watermelon pickle & crispy pork appetizer
tastes even better. The watermelon’s a vibrant red and ripe, the pork
belly, charred and salty. It’s all tossed with Vietnamese mint and a
cool splash of ginger dressing.

Most of the “Fatty’s
Specialties,” Malaysian street food, made their way uptown. If you’ve
never had beef rendang, this is the place to try it. Pelaccio smartly
uses short ribs, braising them in an exhilarating bath of coconut milk
and kaffir lime. The result is spoon-soft short ribs showered in
shredded coconut.

The Fatty’s sliders are too big to be
sliders. They’re burgers – spiced pork and beef patties with pickled
cucumber and a sambal aioli – and they’re terrific.

If you’re going to order the chili crab – a big bowl of crab legs in
a fierce red chili sauce – wear your play clothes and ask for extra wet

There’s nothing civilized or subdued about dinner at Fatty
Crab, which is exactly what makes it so fun. The servers are young,
faded, rock ‘n’ roll t-shirt types.

The dining room is packed
with locals gnawing on fiery chicken wings and fried, fatty duck. At
the bar, patrons are sipping rum and coconut cocktails with sugar cane
swizzles from coconuts that the bartender splits with his machete.

most compelling reasons to eat at Fatty Crab uptown are the chef’s
newest creations. The scallop satay, skewered with house-cured lard,
and served with fried lontong (rice squares) and a coarse peanut
dipping sauce. But the best new dish on the menu is the Hokkien Mee – a
sweet soy and black vinegar-glossed feast of steak, shrimp, cockles and
egg noodles.

With such vibrantly flavored food coming out of the
kitchen, the insipid dishes really stick out. The pork belly in the
Fatty tea sandwiches was way too fatty, and it was asphyxiated by
sambal aioli. The crab noodle special was crab-deficient and plagued by
a paralyzing chili sauce.

Pelaccio reminds us just how talented
he is, and other than a few missteps, the newest Fatty Crab deserves
destination status. I know the nights I ate there the chef was there
because I caught a glimpse of him in a trucker hat and baggy jeans,
working the line.

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