Note: Fatty Crab closed in July 2016, ending a run of over a decade. The “Fatty” brood, with chef Zak Pelaccio at the helm, once included two Fatty Crabs, two Fatty ’Cues, and other diversions. Pelaccio left the group in 2011 and opened an unrelated restaurant, Fish & Game in Hudson, NY. The group lost its way without Pelaccio, and the various “Fatties” closed, one at a time, with this one being the last. It was fun, while it lasted.
Indeed, Fatty Crab is about as casual as it gets. The restaurant is tiny, and reservations aren’t accepted. The bar serves beer and wine only. However, it has the foodie buzz, and if you get there much later than 6:30pm, you can expect to wait. A Fatty Crab meal isn’t an epic-length event, and the tables seem to turn rapidly.
The restaurant follows the irritating contemporary trend of turning out plates as they’re ready, regardless of whether you are ready for them. This can work well if you’re intending to share (as my friend and I were), but I find it presumptuous when I am informed that this is what the kitchen means to do, like it or not. Isn’t dining out meant to suit our convenience, rather than the restaurant’s?
The menu comes as several printed sheets held together with a clip board. It offers the following categories: snacks ($4-8), salads ($7-13), noodles/soups ($10-12), vegetables ($7), rice bowls ($1-3), and specialities ($6-28). All of those specialties are $17 or less, except for the restaurant’s signature dish, the chilli crab, which is $28. It was unavailable last night (worldwide shortage of dungeoness crab, we’re told).
A salad of watermelon pickle and crispy pork ($7) was wonderful, offering a sharp contrast between the cool watermelon and the warm crunchy pork. I would have liked a bit more of the pork, but I shouldn’t complain at that price. A sweet and sour fish broth with rice noodles ($10) was plenty of fun, but awfully difficult to eat.
The dish of the evening was Short Rib Rendang ($17), which is braised with kaffir lime, coconut, and chili: tender, succulent, and flavorful. A dish called Chicken Claypot ($10) offered tender cubes of meat that had all of the flavor cooked out of them.
I suspect that Fatty Crab’s menu will reward further exploration. At its wallet-friendly price, the trip will probably be well worth it.
Fatty Crab (643 Hudson St., btwn Gansevoort & Horatio Sts., West Village)