Fatty Crab

8pm plays (and movies for that matter) are always problematic for me. Eating before feels so early, and waiting till after is painfully late. For someone who lives for her three meals a day, skipping dinner entirely is out of the question. And so I found myself heading over to meet Daniel, April and Josh at Fatty Crab, a Malaysian restaurant near my office, at exactly 6pm on the dot last night, exactly two hours before the start of our friend Joe's play in the West Village.

Fatty Crab was opened in the end of 2005 by Zac Pelaccio, of the former Chickenbone Cafe in Williamsburg (which I regrettably never had a chance to visit) and 5 Ninth, a delightful restaurant where I once had the most amazing short ribs with a blueberry sauce and panzanella salad.

When I arrived at the restaurant, April and Daniel were the only people there, though considering its location in between the West Village and ever so trendy Meatpacking District, we knew it wouldn't be quiet for long. Josh was stuck uptown and since time was of the essence, our waiter, after a little coaxing, agreed to seat us.

Fatty Crab's menu is divided into snacks, salads, noodles/soups/rice, Fatty's specialties, vegetables and rice bowls, all of which are served family style and perfect for sharing. After some deliberating and a little peer pressure from our waiter to order a few extra dishes, we decided on the Fatty Tea Sandwiches and Heritage Foods Slow Cooked Pork Ribs from the snacks category, a crab salad with candied kumquats and shrimp crackers (a special), Lo Si Fun from the noodle section, the duck and and Skate Panggang (grilled on a banana leaf, and served with sambal udang kering, a dried shrimp condiment)from Fatty's specialties, a side of coconut rice and a Hitachino White from the Fatty Beer category.

The tea sandwiches, a dainty introduction to an overall messy, finger-lickin' meal, were the first to fly out from the shoebox of a kitchen. Each sandwich contained a thin layer of rich, tender pork belly nestled between two slices of the softest, crustless white bread, and a gentle swipe of mayo that didn't sneak out over the edges. Effortless and incredibly comforting, I tried to savor each bite as long as possible, since when sharing one order with three other people, you only get a few --note to self to order two next time.

Next we set to work on our pieces of fatty duck which required a fair bit of gnawing. The skin was crunchy and slightly sweet, though I was disappointed by the fairly bland meat it was hiding. Luckily, the Heritage Foods pork ribs came next and I'm happy to report that those were sticky, sweet, and perfectly tender.

The last dishes to arrive were the skate, crab salad and Lo Si Fun noodles. The skate's spicy sambal took some getting used to (it had a fairly pungent aftertaste), but I found that combining it with spoonfuls of coconut rice helped balance out the flavors. The crab salad, which we spooned on top of crunchy shrimp crackers, served as a wonderful palate cleanser which I ate in between bites of the Lo Si Fun -- thick, earthworm shaped noodles slick with a salty sauce of shitakes and Chinese sausage.

Since I'd ended almost every night this week with something sweet, I didn't plan on having any dessert. Then the waiter arrived with our check and plate full of golden moshi rice cakes. Mochi, which I had only tried one other time at Rickshaw Dumpling (where it's injected with a rich chocolate sauce and rolled in sesame seeds), is glutinous rice that's pounded into a paste and then molded into a specific shape. Its texture is quite unusual, and I find the chewy, gumminess of it incredibly soothing and fun to eat. These particular cakes had a sweet, buttery flavor, and as our waiter so eloquently proclaimed, I'd just want to lie in a cloud of them. We quickly devoured the entire plate, though since we'd forgotten to save one for Josh, we convinced our waiter to give us two more -- one for him, and a second for me.

Josh arrived just as we were playing the bill, so we grabbed the to-go plate we'd been saving for him, then dashed out to his car right before a summer storm erupted, soaking the sticky city streets. Our drive to the theater was a quick one, leaving Josh a few minutes to devour a lovely plate of leftovers from the comfort of his car. It might not have been as cozy as Fatty Crab, but when the food is this good, it can be enjoyed practically anywhere.

Fatty Crab
643 Hudson St., nr. Horatio St.

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