Ever since Yardbird first opened its doors in the ‘Kong, the search has been on for another ‘it’ restaurant. Plenty have tried and many have failed, but the latest contender might just be a winner. May I present to you Fatty Crab, hot off the plane from New York and ready to roll!
The creation of restaurateur Rick Camac and chef Zakary Pellacio, Fatty Crab (and their spin-off resto Fatty Cue) dish up South East Asian inspired cuisine with a creative, playful and occasionally, downright sexy twist. I know what you’re thinking – why does everything these days always have to be with a twist?! But let me tell you, this is a twist worth salivating for!
Teaming up with HK foodie brothers Harsh and Rohit (the nicest guys you could ever meet), Fatty Crab Hong Kong is the brand’s first venture outside the States – and we are definitely the lucky ones!
Fatty Crab’s space on Old Bailey Street has been totally transformed by design maestro Candace Campos. The U-shape format sounds odd on paper – you enter through the bar, progress via a raw seafood station and two booth tables, then turn round (past the bustling kitchens) to the main restaurant area on the other side – but it totally works in real life, creating a neat separation between the three areas. I loved quirky touches like the 70s Chinese newspaper wallpaper, colourful graffiti art on the walls and traditional Chinese crockery; the whole place somehow feels effortlessly cool, laidback and rock n’ roll all at once.
There’s a nifty cocktail menu at the bar courtesy of another NYC import, mixologist Philip Ward (signature drink: Where’s Wallace, named after Fatty Crab’s only Chinese-speaking member of the staff and the cries of help every time there’s a Canto-speaker on the phone!), and you could easily make a night of it with just these and the plethora of raw seafood available. But if you do manage to make it to the restaurant area, you’re in for a treat.
After a round of picklebacks (a shot of whiskey chased by a shot of pickle brine – not nearly as unpleasant as it sounds and apparently the subject of cult-like devotion Stateside!), we were onto our Fatty Crab feast! First up was the hottest dish of the night, a green mango and papaya salad. Despite the dangerously hot smattering of chilli, this was a light, crunchy and sweetly refreshing start to the meal, packed with distinctively Asian flavours.
The smoked eggplant nam prik (an Asian take on dip and crudités) was earthy and moreish (if a little underseasoned for my tastes), whilst a platter of golden crispy tempura vegetables paired well with an addictive homemade srichacha hot sauce and HK’s very own Kowloon Soy Sauce.
Mini burger sliders are always a people-pleaser and Fatty Crab’s boasted juicy flavoursome beef patties, although given the menu described them as ‘spiced’, I was hoping that they might have packed more of a punch. Surprisingly, I ended up preferring the lighter smoked tofu bahn mi sandwiches, which arrived looking like something straight out a HK high tea! However, they were far more exciting than your average egg and cucumber number, instead having a wonderful mellow smoky flavour matched with another supremely tasty blend of Asian ingredients and dressings.
Next up, a mouth-watering bowl of steamed clams with fresh crabmeat. The green curry sauce reminded me of a mix between Thai curry and Malaysian laksa soup, with that creamy coconut-milk sweetness matched with a running undercurrent of heat – luckily, I was in polite company or I’d have simply slurped it all up! The addition of little chunks of sweet crabmeat simply added to the delicious combination.
My absolute favourite dish of the night was one of Fatty Crab’s most famous items – watermelon pickle and crispy pork. Apparently, this has become so big in the States that people actually believe it’s a genuine South East Asian dish! I could go on about this for days… the melt-in-mouth pork belly that was equal amounts gooey richness and crispy charred deliciousness… the contrastingly refreshing bites of sweet watermelon… the sprinkling of light fresh spring onions… seriously my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I’m still having downright sinful thoughts about that pork, so it’s best I stop there!
There’s no choice but to get your hands dirty with two more of their signatures, the smoked pork ribs and the Fatty Duck. The ribs smelt incredible thanks to their fish-palm glaze – that slightly sweet, instantly recognisably Asian scent – but by then, my heart had been lost to the pork belly. The duck, served with pickled mustard greens, gula jawa and Thai chilli, had another great sticky, sweet and moreish sauce but the meat itself could have been a little more ‘fall-off-the-bone’ for me.
Just as I was certain there was no more room left, the piece de resistance was revealed – the Fatty Crab itself! A whole Dungeness crab served in a giant soup of thick yellow curry broth, with huge slabs of toast to soak it all up – this is the stuff that foodie dreams are made of! I’m super lazy and usually get a friend/relative/waiter to break into the crab shells for me, but I manned up for this one and I’m glad I did! Yes, it’s VERY messy… but that’s part of the fun, right? Again, the sauce was more sweet than spicy for me, but it was absolutely addictive with a strong crab flavour shining through – even when I claimed I was full, I kept finding room for more hunks of sweet crabmeat dunked in this finger-licking deliciousness.
Currently, Fatty Crab only has two desserts on its menu – a durian coconut panna cotta (I don’t like durian) and a Thai egg custard (oddly savoury tasting, with a strange spongy texture); neither was to my taste but honestly, by then, I really didn’t care… and this is Sassy’s resident dessert queen talking!
Service is warm and friendly, from the Yardbird/Brickhouse school of easy-going cool charm. Price-wise, most of Fatty Crab’s dishes come in between $50-$160, with the crab varying according to market price. With zero obligatory service charge, I thought this was pretty damn reasonable for great food and great service in a buzzy environment in Central, but obviously if you’re comparing this to the Asian street food equivalents, you might feel differently.
True sign of an ‘it’ restaurant in waiting? A no reservations policy, of course! Fatty Crab has all the ingredients to become the hottest joint in town and I’ll be first in line to splash curry sauce all over myself and chow down on that sinful pork belly all over again… being crabby (and a fatty!) never felt so good!
Fatty Crab G/F, 11-13 Old Bailey Street, Central
2521 2033 www.facebook.com/FattyCrabHK