Entries in Fatty Crab (3)


Update: Fatty Crab

I had dinner with a friend on Sunday evening at the West Village Fatty Crab. I’ve written about both Manhattan Fatty Crabs before (here, here), and my opinion of the franchise remains the same: very good food, poor service.

It seems to me that at $111 for two people (before tax and tip), replacing silverware and plates between courses ought to be automatic, not something you have to ask for. And the least they could do is to reprint an outdated menu that is dog-eared from over-use.

That $111 bill, by the way, included a $40 bottle of Tempranillo that paired well with the food. But most of the wine selections were well above $50 a bottle.

What saves Fatty Crab, and the reason I would still go back if I’m in the neighborhood, is that the food remains complelling, even if overpriced: $13 for two small pork buns? $12 for a bowl of broccoli? A dish new to me was a wonderful deep fried whole striped bass ($24).

The restaurant was full on a Sunday evening, which means that Zak Pelaccio has no reason to change.

Fatty Crab (643 Hudson St., btwn Gansevoort & Horatio Sts., West Village)


Fatty Crab on the Upper West Side

Update: Fatty Crab on the Upper West Side closed in September 2012. A branch of RedFarm has replaced it. The West Village Fatty Crab remains open.


There is something deeply frustrating about chef Zak Pelaccio’s peregrinations. Fatty Crab in the West Village was a much deserved hit (our review here), but nearby Five Ninth (which he has since left) was always uneven, and Chop Suey (where he consulted) was a joke. Heaven knows how his next venture, Fatty ’Cue, will turn out.

Last year, he opened a second branch of Fatty Crab on the Upper West Side. Unlike the downtown branch, it takes reservations, and it is more than double the size (70 seats vs. 30). Fatty UWS looks a bit nicer than Fatty WV, but it’s still über-casual. We saw a few diners who, perhaps deceived by Frank Bruni’s two-star review, looked surprised by the gritty surroundings that are atypical for a purportedly serious restaurant in this neighborhood.

The servers look like college students, but fortunately they know the menu well and give good advice. The cuisine is vaguely Southeast Asian, but much of it is filtered through Pelaccio’s American perspective. In that respect, he reminds me of David Chang, who actually claims to be serving American cuisine at his Momofuku restaurants, despite the obviously Asian roots they sprang from.

The Fatty menus in both locations are similar, down to the way they are delivered—loose sheets on a clipboard. The UWS location has a few more selections, but those in common are the same price at either place. There are several categories—Snacks, Noodles/Soup/Rice, Specialties, and Vegetables—but these divisions hardly matter, as everything is served family-style, for sharing. Most items are between $10 and $20. If you order three to five dishes for two people, you’ll spend between $50–80 before beverages, tax, and tip. We ordered four dishes, and felt stuffed.

It didn’t help that the food was practically thrown at us, as if we were contestants in a speed-eating contest. As I’ve noted before, these family-style restaurants generally want to turn tables. The food comes out when the kitchen is ready, not when you’re ready. Everything we had was at least suitable for sharing—not always the case at such places—but a couple of dishes were practically impossible to eat without knives, which aren’t part of the default place setting. When we pointed this out, a server most oddly brought out just one knife.

Wanton Mee, or Wet Wanton ($17; above left), was a delicious mix of noodles with shrimp and pork dumplings. Fatty Duck ($17; above right) was a bit challenging to eat, but worth the effort.

Bacon ($15; above left) was unexpectedly spicy; Short Ribs ($25; above right) a bit bland. Actually, those short ribs were the exception: most of these dishes deliver plenty of heat.

There is a wine list, but we felt that beer would pair better with this food. We each had one, and would have had a second if it had been possible to flag down a server.

Most of the food is very good—quite a bit better, in fact, than the surroundings and the service. But this restaurant isn’t actually near anything, and it’s annoying to travel this far, only to be rushed through the meal.

Fatty Crab (2170 Broadway between 76th & 77th Streets, Upper West Side)

Food: *½
Service: Satisfactory
Ambiance: Satisfactory
Overall: *


Fatty Crab

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.


Fatty Crab
 is chef Zak Pelaccio’s casual Malaysian spinoff. His other restaurant, the more upscale and expensive 5 Ninth, is just steps away, in the center of the Meatpacking District.

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)

Food: *
Service: Satisfactory
Ambiance: Satisfactory
Overall: *