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Dec 10, 2013 02:38 AM

The Fat Ham (Kevin Sbraga's new restaurant in University City)

Apologies for the double post, but there doesn't seem to be a thread on "The Fat Ham", Kevin Sbraga's brand new Southern small plates restaurant in University City.

Ate at the bar last night (Kenny Gilbert from Top Chef 7 was there too), and thought everything was FANTASTIC! Standouts were the KILLER fried oyster sliders (I ordered a second for dessert), and the SCREAMING HOT Hot Chicken (hotter and different from the Tennessee Hot Chicken at Sbraga).

This will be successful.

Will post some photos later...

BTW, the opening of this restaurant was chronicled in excruciating detail by Michael Klein here (not that I've actually read it):

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  1. Well, I doubt Sbraga himself would be more enthusiastic ...

    I'm looking forward to trying it. I did try to make a reservation for 12 but they said they couldn't yet handle anything over 8, having just opened. I appreciate they were thoughtful and honest about it .. much better than over-promising and under-delivering once we got there.

    2 Replies
    1. re: guanxi

      Compared to the photos, I was surprised it was so small. Maybe 40 seats, between the bar and tables.

      1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

        Remember this place used to be Tria. The format was small bar/snacks. And while Sbraga is doing small plates, its really a small space, and I wonder if it really fits the concept. The food looks great, and am so glad there is an alternative to the food at World Cafe Live, which continues to get great shows and deliver lousy food.

    2. OK, here are some photos. 6 or so small plates were plenty filling for 2 people (note, only 1 slider per serving).

      1) Enjoyed some excellent cocktails, but a pretty short list

      2) Eggs & ham!

      3) "The Board" literally is a board (the liver mousse was incredible)

      4) I hum, you hum, we all hum for hummus!

      5) Dish of the night was the great Oyster Sliders (I had a second one for dessert)

      6) hot, Hot, HOT Chicken (give it up Federal Donut, you've met your match)

      7) Melt-in-your-mouth Pulled Pork

      8) Apple cobbler with bourbon-maple ice cream (the ice cream was what made this dish)

      1. Baltimore chowhound in town for work. Usually a fan of the BYOB scene here (Matyson, Bibou, Will, etc) here but decided to try The Fat Ham out of curiosity. I dined solo, so I didn't fully survey the menu.

        1. Southern hummus. Peanuts in place of the tahini. It tasted exactly like you would have expected. Appreciated the texture of the sprinkle of crushed peanuts. The hummus also had an element of brightness that may have been lemon juice?

        2. Oyster slider. The oysters tonight were Blue Points. Eat it with the house made hot sauce. Beautiful dish. The hot sauce had a great heat without being too salty and contained a touch of honey for sweetness at the end. Note that the heat is distinct from the friend chicken described below.

        3. Pulled pork sandwich. If i were to be picky, it was moist but on the verge of being dry. The chives complimented it well and it was topped with pickled onion, carrots, and cucumbers. It was a good, satisfying dish but suffered in comparison to the hot chicken which was fired at the same time.

        4. Hot chicken. Favorite dish of the night, hands down. Essentially fried chicken with LOTS of chipotle pepper in the batter. Meat was extremely moist. This is a restaurant unafraid of bringing the heat. Served atop a bread (sans crust) with house made ranch dressing and thinly sliced pickled cucumbers. I could have done without the bread because the chicken itself was phenomenal.

        Didn't explore the limited drink menu so cannot report. Overall, great experience. Hot chicken the clear standout in an otherwise solid menu.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kelbell

          Agree the Hot Chicken (I guess it's a Tennessee thing) was stellar, and possibly the juiciest fried chicken I've ever had, with a super crunchy crust. But I didn't taste chipotle, I'm pretty sure it's a ton of cayenne pepper. For a lot of people, I bet they'll appreciate the bread soaked in ranch dressing. Sort of like Lassi for your Indian food! Don't order if you don't like spicy food.

          BTW, our pulled pork was unbelievably tender and very moist. So much so that I thought it almost didn't seem like real pulled pork. Hence my melt-in-your-mouth comment.

          Glad you enjoyed your meal.

        2. First pro review of The Fat Ham (from Adam Erace, CityPaper):

          Didn't notice his problems with the hot chicken when i was there, although it's not a large serving (but it shouldn't be since it's a small plates restaurant).

          9 Replies
          1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

            Don't know what to think about refusal to have sauce on the side. I get that that's the, but why couldn't a diner have it the way he wants? We get to pick meat temps regardless of what the chef thinks is best.

            Laban was initially offended, and from the tone of his writing ,still is but is cutting Sbraga some slack. If it hadn't remained an issue he wouldn't have mentioned it.

            Same deal as Bloomfield in ny refusing to remove blue cheese from her burger.

            Overall I think some of these chef guys take themselves way too seriously.

            1. re: sal_acid

              If you want Kentucky Fried Chicken, go to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Don't go to a TN Hot Chicken place and ask for fried chicken with the sauce on the side. That's not TN Hot Chicken. It's like going to a Korean Fried Chicken place and asking for your chicken to be fried only once. Yeah, they could do it, but that's plain dumb.

              I generally think the customer is always right. But dumbass customers should just be asked to leave premises and not come back (sorry Craig)!

              I could just see LaBan saying "the best fried chicken in Philly is at The Fat Ham if you order it without sauce", and then everyone is going to be doing the same thing and ruining the restaurant's signature dish. Sbraga is smart to pass on that.

              1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                In this case, I think he was trying to taste the chicken all by itself so he could review just the chicken part. He had mentioned that he had tasted it previously as the "whole dish". I look at it as being thorough, from a reviewing perspective.

                1. re: Philly Ray

                  Maybe he could ask for the raw chicken to sniff too.

                2. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                  Assuming that whoever waited on him knew it was Laban.

                  And if you read the piece, there's no mention that Sbraga was present.

                  And Laban isn't a dumbass by any stretch.

                  Asking to have a sauce left off is not a crazy request at all. Better communication by the waitress would've solved things. See Laban's Twitter feed.

                  1. re: sal_acid

                    Obviously Sbraga discussed this with Aaron beforehand, so he knew exactly what to do. No Sauce, No Chicken, even if you are Craig LaBan!

                    (Given who the GM is, I'm sure they knew who they were serving.)

                    Sbraga from that Twitter discussion:

                    "@HollyMoore @fatham hot chicken needs to be hot. That's the bottom line. Otherwise it's just fried chicken."

                    1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                      Not at all obvious.

                      Given the stupid way it was handled, I'm sure that they did not know it was Laban.

                  2. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                    in this scenario, I'm going to agree with PB-BYOB
                    it's a fully composed dish, with multiple elements which are meant to be eaten TOGETHER

                    people who walk into a restaurant and try to reinvent or restructure a menu item are kinda my pet peeve.

                    I go into a restaurant assuming that the chef who created the menu had a vision of his/her food and I will happily consume the food as it was meant to be consumed

                    I know what foods I like and don't particularly care for, so if a dish has something that I don't care for... (news flash) I'm just not going to order it... I'm not going to ask "can you make that lima bean and ricotta crostini without lima beans?"