Dinner at Fatty Crab – NYC
The Singapore Chilli Crab Festival used to be my favorite summer food festival. A day of spicy chili crab sponsored by a beer company, what’s not to love?! Alas, the last festival was in 2007 and I’ve been suffering since. I read online they’re now on tour in the UK, so with no New York festival in sight, I made dinner plans with my girls, Ellie and Christina, for some chili crab at Fatty Crab. Chris’ husband, Will, also came along to eat/chaperone. He’s a smart man.
The food at Fatty Crab is family-style and all the dishes come out as they are ready. The first dish of the night were the Fattty Tea Sandwiches ($8) filled with pork belly and sambal aioli. You can’t go wrong with pork belly, but perhaps these sandwiches would have been better if it had been earlier in the day and if we had been drinking tea instead of red wine. The soft bread and mild sambal got lost amid the many glasses of wine. We ordered two bottles of red: Morellino ’05, Erik Banti and Messapicus ’03, Salice Salentino Riserva. We all preferred the smoother and more expensive Messapicus.
Next was the Watermelon Pickle and Crispy Pork ($13), fried crunchy hunks of fatty pork belly atop cubes of sweet and sour watermelon. The juicy watermelon cut the saltiness of the pork and the shredded scallions added to the savoriness of the dish. It was delicious beyond belief and by far the favorite of the night by everyone at the table. Five cube sets a plate, after we all had one there was one set left and Ellie insisted I have it because she said I looked like I was heaven when was eating my portion. Of course I didn’t refuse. She’s a good friend.
The Fatty Sliders ($9) made of pork and beef came with bibb lettuce, a single thick cut pickle, and sambal aioli on a potato bun. The sliders were nice, as most sliders tend to be, but they didn’t blow me away. I longed for a stronger sambal aioli as I did when I ate the tea sandwiches.
We placed two orders of the Quail Egg Shooters ($6) since the toppings were different and we wanted to try two each. The toppings varied in terms of potency (in the picture above, the eggs are ordered strongest to mildest, left to right): combination, pork floss, shrimp paste and anchovy, and sambal. I ate the anchovy and the combination quail egg, and both were dominated by the flavor of the shrimp paste. Although pretty to look at, the quail egg shooters are more of a novelty for those who don’t eat quail eggs too often.
The waiter said the Fatty Duck ($15) was his favorite so naturally I expected a lot. The steamed and fried duck in a sweet brown sauce over rice with toasted popped rice and topped with pickled mustard greens and red chili peppers was indeed good, but the skin on the duck could have been crispier and the meat more fall-off-the-bone. It would have made for easier eating since we didn’t have a fork and knife.
After the Fatty Duck, everything started going downhill. The Char Kway Teow ($19) — sauteed ho fun noodles with shrimp, squid, bean sprouts, cilantro, and scallions — was overpowered by an excess amount of fish sauce, and as a result, was incredible salty. Refills of the water were greatly appreciated while eating these noodles.
And lastly, the reason for the dinner at Fatty Crab: the Chili Crab (MP, we paid around $40 one month ago), Dungeness crab in a chili sauce served with thick white toast. Eating the crab was definitely a messy endeavor, but I was prepared. Unfortunately, the crab wasn’t exactly worth all the effort. The large Dungeness crab was bland inside and the thick, over-reduced sauce was, again, too salty. Oddly, none of the flavor of the sauce had gotten into the crab. It was a disappointment, and a pricey one at that.
The meal ended with Fatty Crab’s version of corn cakes made with sticky rice flour. A cross between mochi/dduk and corn cakes, the little buttery squares were scrumptious if a little heavy considering all the food we had just eaten. Chris and Ellie gave up at this point, but Will and I soldiered on and finished every one of the cakes.
Do I regret going to Fatty Crab? Definitely not, the deliciousness of the Watermelon Pickle and Crispy Pork made up for all the over and under seasoned dishes. That’s how good it was. For a moment, the longing for the crabs at the Chilli Crab Festival was appeased, but not extinguished.
UPDATE: I just received an email from “The Tiger Team” and they say there might be a Chilli Crab Festival in NYC next year! Woot! Woot!
643 Hudson Street (betw Horatio and Gansevoort St.)
New York, NY 10014
i’m so happy to hear that the chili crab festival was your favorite summer festival. i loved the chili crab festival too, my mom used to help produce it so i’ve been going since 2005. nothing beats curbside chili crabs and cold beer on a hot summer day..do you remember the laksa noodles they served one year in DUMBO? those were so good..
@veronica – Does that mean you had free unlimited crabs and beer?! OMG, that sounds awesome. Yes, I remember the noodles, but I thought the roti with the curry sauce was even better. Oh man, sweet memories…
Doesn’t the giant pickle get in the way of the slider? I assume it’s not mushy, but looking at the picture, if you tried biting into it, the innards would probably neatly slide out of the bun. Presentation issues aside, it seems to be a logistical nightmare to eat :(.
My favorite thing ever are these chili crabs! Before I lived in NYC, I was up for vacation and stopped at Fatty Crab, tried their namesake dish and was hooked. I love going and digging into the bowl all by my lonesome- with a beer in hand, of course. Where else can you find them in NYC? I just recently ate @ FC and actually asked the waiter if he could prepare the dish with low salt. As much as I love Fatty Crab, I always leave so swollen from all of the sodium! Anyway, I love your blog and would love for you to check out mine @chefolivia.com!
@Nicholas: You underestimate my giant mouth, the pickle is no match for my powerful bite. Really, the sliders and pickles look much bigger than they actually are, so it wasn’t a problem eating them. 2 bites and they are gone.
@Olivia – Wow, I eat alone a lot, but not to eat crab. That takes guts girl. Yeah, as for me I really wanted the crabs to be good, but the sauce was way too salty, and I’m not one to shy away from salt. And I never got this swollen from sodium thing. All my friends complain about it, but maybe I’m perpetually swollen so I don’t notice it!
i’m sad that you didn’t enjoy the chili crab. i saw another review for Fatty Crab and that was the only reason I was going to stop there on my next trip to NYC.
@dee – If you’re in college and don’t have a trust fund, I don’t recommend going to Fatty Crab unless you go with a big group so you can sample everything and share the cost of the food. If you want crab and don’t care about ambiance, Hop Kee is cheap and delicious. But as I said, there will be absolutely NO ambiance. Hope you have fun in NY! Let me know how it goes.