A +/- Look at NYC Food

Fatty Crab

LogoI think I'm in love.  This is my favorite restaurant in NYC.  Small and cramped, Fatty Crab is the casual joint that Zac Pelaccio has opened up around the corner from his popular, more upscale Meatpacking restaurant 5 Ninth.  Unlike some universal New York favorites (like Grammercy Tavern) I wouldn't recommend this place to everyone… but for me it is perfect.  From the type of food, the price, atmosphere… everything.

First the food.  It's described as Malaysian street food, but this wasn't like any street food I've ever had (and the prices are certainly a little higher then what you might pay a vendor in Kuala Lampur!).  That's not to say it's toned down…

What we ate, and the +/- after the jump…


  • Watermelon Pickle & Crispy Pork Salad $7

All I can say is WOW.  This was the first dish we got, and set the bar pretty high.  The half fat, half meat crispy pork chunks were perfectly fried, with the little bit of greasiness cut perfectly by the crisp refreshing watermelon.  A perfect dish if you like fried, fatty pork (which I do).

Fatty Specialties

  • Fatty Duck, brined, steamed, fried $9

Next came the duck, which was perfectly cooked, delicious and not nearly as greasy as duck can usually be.


  • Nasi Lemak $12

Nasi lemak is a pretty traditional Southeast Asian dish of rice steamed in coconut milk, and this one was topped with a chicken curry that tasted very similar to a lot of rendang I've had.  It also comes with the traditional Nasi Lemak toppings of a poached egg (usually fried), little dried fish (probably anchovies?), peanuts and sambal.  The most traditional dish we had, it was really delicious.

Fatty Specialties

  • Chili Crab, dungeoness crab, chili sauce, white toast $28

THE DISH.  And if you go- you have to order it.  The restaurant is practically named for it… But truthfully, it's the reason why I wouldn't recommend this restaurant to everyone.  First, it turns the meal from a cheap meal, to a moderate/expensive meal- depending on your budget.  Second, and more importantly, it's unbelievably messy.  Seriously.  Not a little messy… but alot messy.  I would go so far as to say, the messiest dish I have ever eaten in my life.  It's one of those dishes where you have to make a decision early that a) I'm going to eat this, and b) I'm not going to use a napkin, or touch anything on the table until I'm done eating- at which point I will try to make it to the bathroom to wash my hands, without touching anything on the way.  I'm pretty sure I don't have to say this, but it's not a dish you want to eat in front of a first date.  The crab, about three or four pieces worth, and uncracked (hence the mess) comes in a bowl covered in this sweet and spicy red chili sauce.  There's a couple of pieces of toast that you will enjoy sopping up the sauce with.    It's also not a ton of crab.  Perfect for two or three people, share with any more then that, and you'll feel as if you got really messy, for very little food payoff. 


  • Orvietto Plazzone, Reserve 2004 $28

I don't normally mention wine (because I don't know anything about it), and this wine isn't even on the wine list at Fatty Crab anymore- but we really enjoyed this white wine, and have bought in many times since in New York wine stores for around $11.99.  There's also a cheaper (non reserve) version for around 8 or 9 bucks which is also really good.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  My favorite place?  Yes.  Would I recommend it to everyone?  No.  As a matter of fact, my wife and I were originally supposed to go with four other friends (we ended up going by ourselves), and our friends didn't enjoy it nearly as much as we did- which I think I can attribute to a few things.  First, the restaurant is very small and cramped and they don't take reservations.  As a party of four, they waited an hour and 45 minutes, we only had to wait 30 minutes.  As a party of four, they ordered more dishes when we did, but didn't get to eat as much of each dish.  The portions are a little  bigger then tapas, but smaller then main courses- so sharing with one other person is definetely preferable then sharing between four.  The two of us had the crab and three other dishes, and it was the perfect amount of food.  Finally, the crab is really messy, and best enjoyed with only one other person, and that person should love you unconditionally.  Not something you want to eat before going to out to a club, or to a bar. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are large groups who have enjoyed this place, and you could probably enjoy it without ordering the crab- but overall I think the restaurant is best suited for a party of two people, who love sophiticaled food in a super casual setting, enjoy real Malaysian flavors (not watered down asian fusion), and don't mind paying Meatpacking prices.


  • You want real Southeast Asian flavors, served in a hip, but very casual Meatpacking district setting


  • If you are looking for a place like 5 Ninth or Spice Market, this is not it.  The address and clientele may be meatpacking, but the place is no frills, and very casual
  • You have a large party.  The place is small and doesn't take reservations.  The portion size is also much more suited to a party of 2. 
  • You don't like to wait.  The "bar" in the back, has four or five stools and practially no room to stand behind those stools.
  • You don't want to get messy.  The fatty crab is truly delicious, and is one of the stand out dishes that inspires much of the passion for this restaurant
  • You hate the Meatpacking attitude.  Dispite the price, and casual atmosphere… there is still a little bit of that "I'm better then you" Meatpacking attitude- and the service is very casual.

Helpful Links:

Fatty Crab, 643 Hudson St btw. Gansevoort and Horatio 212-352-3590 


December 3, 2005 - Posted by | Food: Malaysian, Location: Meatpacking, Price: Moderate

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