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Fatty Crab: Hip Fleece Joint

Always wanted to try Fatty Crab after reading a positive review in "TimeOut" magazine. The Malay Fish Fry ($14) consisted of four small bland pieces of breaded fried fish on top of a 1/4 cup of curried rice. The entree portion was the size of a typical appetizer. Wonton Mee Fried Noodles ($17) had four small wontons in about a quarter cup of bland broth with a small amount of fried noodles. You could just about inhale this small entree ....er appetizer? Both dishes were no better than anything I can get in chinatown for a fraction of the cost.

I really don't see how a restaurant can get away with such blatant fleecing. Can a "hip" looking staff and decor really add that much more to the dining experience? Tables were also quite small and cramped.

After my "meal" I headed down to Taim on Waverly for a great falafel sandwich. Needless to say I'd only return to Fatty Crab at gunpoint.

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  1. Sorry you were so disappointed as I rather liked my last time there. We had a group of six or so and so ordered quite a variety, managing to miss both of the two dishes you had. I can't really speak to them.

    The place is what it is and it's hard to fault an establishment that so unapologetically embraces it's pretention. First, it adds some welcome spice to the West Village where spicy usually tops out at Arrabiatta. Also, while certainly over priced, and not the best example of the cuisine, it can be hard to drag a group to Chinatown on a Friday night and call it an occasion (I know, I try, often). I sing the praises of Nyonya when I want inspirational Malay rather than Malay inspired, but we are social animals and my laksa is salty enough without my tears of lonliness falling into it.

    If this imagined violent restaurant-jacking ever occurs and you some day return with an anchovy stuck at your back I'd recomend the titular Chili Crab dish. The chicken dish rather surprised us too (nasi lemak, I guess). I was disappointed with the laksa, which they describe as a traditional noodle soup. Is it traditional to have soggy noodles? It was a bit like Laksa Boyardee. It laksa'd something? Anyway, our waiter was accomadating for someone that much more attractive than me, and for the most part steered us well with frank advice.

    10 Replies
    1. re: TarquinWinot

      While I agree with you about Fatty Crab being pretty tasty albeit expensive "fusion food" a la Vong, Nyonya is hardly "inspirational Malay". Its quality is uneven and even on a good day, their sauces are watered down and the place is barely a trap for the uneducated palate about true Malaysian food (it's so bad). In general, the food at "Nyonya" is Malaysian (the nationality), not Malay (the race/ethnicity) which has a rather distinct cuisine of its own. And "nyonya" indicates the female Straits [of Malacca]-born Chinese (known as "Peranakan," which also has its own distinct cuisine), none of which the restaurant offers nor does well. If you want truly good Malaysian cuisine, try "Taste Good" in Elmhurst Queens (a hole-in-the-wall place about 1 block from the Elmhurst Ave/45th Ave stop on the G, R or V lines). Now *THAT'S* Malaysian food; take it from someone who was born, bred and has lived half my life in the region. Nothing in Manhattan compares, although the Penang down on Elizabeth St--the rest of the Penangs suck ass--has its moments for some dishes but still missing bits and pieces and Sanur on Doyer St has pretty decent Malay and Peranakan kuihs.

      1. re: Gastronomicon

        Hi Gastronoicon,

        Could you please recommend some dishes at Penang and Sanur that you think are chow-worthy?

        Thanks!

        1. re: kobetobiko

          Sanur: Mee Siam, Soto Ayam, Lontong, Flat Rice Noodles with Seafood and Egg Sauce, Penang Char Kway Teow. They also sometimes have a good assortment of Malay/Peranakan pastries known as "kuih" or "kueh" such as Ang Koo Kueh (the red, circular, rubbery flat gooey cakes stuffed with bean paste) and Kuih Lapis (the concoction with multi-coloured layers).

          Penang: I just ate there a month back and their standards seem to have plunged. Maybe they changed chefs or something. As such, I hesitate to recommend their dishes now. Previously, what used to be good was their Lorbak, Penang Char Kway Teow (not any more), Satay, Hainanese Chicken and Roti Canai. Their Curry Yong Tau Foo used to be okay but it, too, seems to have suffered. Stay away from their Mee Siam (which has always been substandard).

        2. re: Gastronomicon

          I made no claim to be an expert on either Malay or Malaysian food, but thanks for being unnecessarily condescending. I've never been to Malaysia, but would like to, as long as the people there are significantly more polite than yourself.

          I should have known better and avoided a place that does not offer Nyonya cuisine, yet still manages to do it poorly. That's quite an accomplishment to have a lack of a dish fail in execution. I can't conceive of this, my uneducated palate failing me again...

          1. re: TarquinWinot

            Hey Tarquin, I grew up in Singapore and ate malaysian food growing up for a good chunk of my life. Though Nyonya may not be 100% authentic I agree with you, some of the dishes are just great.

            I have heard great things abotu Taste Good and it being the most authentic outside of SEA, but there are definitely dishes at Nyonya that are similar to south east asian food.

            1. re: kelea

              Why just listen to other people? Try Taste Good and make the comparison for yourself. Love it. Hate it. Let your taste buds do the talking. I've tried almost every "Malaysian" place in New York in my almost 30 years here as an expatriate Singaporean and haven't found any place that beats them yet. That the staff of the Singapore Mission to the UN eat there periodically actually says something about their quality, considering it's not exactly "around the corner" for most Manhattanites and a bit of a schlep to get to.

            2. re: TarquinWinot

              Well, for someone who allegedly "made no claim to be an expert on either Malay or Malaysian food," you *DID* make the claim in your earlier post that Nyonya is "inspirational Malay," which hints at some familiarity with the cuisine, the region and the culture. If you had no idea what the Hell you're talking about, how can you make such a claim? Hence my response. And I thought it was rather clinically and dispassionately objective. I was merely providing the actual definitions of all the terms you were bandying about without a clue as to what you were doing, as you now admit.

          2. re: TarquinWinot

            For the record, soggy noodles are definitely NOT traditional in laksa - or good laksa, at any rate. :-)

            1. re: Pan

              Laksa, either in its Penang version also known as "Assam Laksa" which is Tamarind-based or its Singapore version also known as "Curry Laksa" or "Laksa Lemak" which is Coconut Curry-based, is *ALWAYS* served drowned in a soup, regardless of version. The former has actual fish (mackerel?) in it and is garnished with sprigs of mint to offset the sharp tang of the tamarind soup while the latter comes with shrimp and deep-fried tofu (sometimes even "Yong Tau Foo") in a coconut-based curry soup. The actual laksa noodles are different from regular rice noodles in that they are a fatter, more rubbery, round version of a rice noodle that almost brings to mind a tapioca base (if you've ever had a chendol lately). Yellow (wheat-based) noodles are never used. Nor rice vermicelli (meehoon). Nor flat rice noodles (kway teow). Since they are served floating in soup, what, exactly, do you mean by "soggy"? How much "soggier" can it get if it's supposed to be floating in soup?

              1. re: Gastronomicon

                It can get soggier if it's overcooked. I know very well that laksa is(/are) (a) noodle soup(s).

          3. Very cramped indeed-nevertheless I totally enjoyed thier extremely tasty foods-especially the Fatty Crab!!!! so messy-sooooooooooooooo delicious!

            1. I'd agree that the place is small and cramped, but I'm not sure why you feel fleeced. Our waitress told us immediately that we should order a few items to share as the plates are generally small. We were actually pleasantly suprised at the quanitity (and quality) and felt our meal was very reasonable had we not ordered the Chili Crab (and I wish hadn't unfortunately). And we left happily stuffed. Sure it may not be as cheap as Chinatown, but I didn't feel like I was eating in Chinatown either. Aside from the disappointing crab, everything was delicious and I would definetely go back.

              3 Replies
              1. re: fooodie

                Why fleeced?

                Waitress did not inform us that the entrees are minuscule in size. If she did, after looking at the prices, we would have walked out!

                1. re: budinado

                  It sounds like your waitress did not do a very good job. Most of the portions were bigger than we had expected after speaking with our waitress. I guess it's all about living up to (or exceeding) expectations. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience, but I can't wait to go back.

                  1. re: fooodie

                    It definitely sounds like the waitress didn't explain properly. I've been a few times and each time it was explained that the dishes were meant to be shared and they recommended how many items we should order based on how many people I was with.

                    I would have definitely been disappointed if I wasn't informed of the size of the dishes in advance. I never had the dishes you mentioned, and have always loved the food.

              2. i feel that you should expect to get ripped by going to these kind of places momafuku, fatty crab , budakan, etc the food offered is always a confusion rather than a fusion and the staff are usually rude and concitted until it comes time to tip them at witch point they offer a beaming smile my advise go to chinatown or main st flushing you may not find exactley what you wont but it will be an educational and affordable

                1 Reply
                1. re: huw

                  I found the sauce on the noodles at fatty crab way too thick and sweet, Buddakan actually is pretty good and the prices are alot more reasonable than one would expect from a restaurant that put12 million dollars into renovation