643 Hudson St, 212-352-3590
Price Range: $20-35 Rating: 4L's
As the Meatpacking District continues expanding, like some whimsical malignant tumor, into the Village and Chelsea, the scene is descending into an indistinguishable corporatist din, punctuated occasionally by the piercing screams of young ladies learning what happens when you walk on rutted cobblestones while wearing five-inch stilettos.
Still, there’s always hope. Right now, that hope rests on Zak Pelaccio, whose new venture, Fatty Crab, breaks away from the success of his chic 5 Ninth, just down the block. It’s messy. It’s loud. It doesn’t take reservations. It doesn’t even serve liquor. Worst (or best) of all, a boldly Malaysian menu makes no compromises. But it’s got buzz, so be prepared to mull about the bench outside before squeezing into the cramped space of maroon, brick, brass, flickering candles, and exotic aromas.
Starting off slowly, my companion and I enjoyed the sensuous Quail Egg Shooters ($5) and Fatty Tea Sandwiches ($6), velvety portals of mayonnaise and nearly raw egg hinting at the exuberance to come. Neither dish could hold up to the Lion’s Stout from Sri Lanka ($6), but just reinforced them as pleasant before-dinner snacks.
Next out of the smoky open kitchen were Slow Cooked Pork Ribs ($8) and Fatty Duck ($9), kissed with deep caramel glazes. I don’t know what sort of sugar was used — palm sugar, treacle, rum-factory refuse — and neither did my waiter. But each dish was sweet, pungent, and disappeared in minutes. The succulent duck, draped in a layer of crisp fat, had been brined, steamed and fried, just like mama used to make. The pork ribs, blackened in their bittersweet glaze, yielded to the lightest touch, and we devoured them to the bone.
Moments later — dishes leave the kitchen when they are ready — we were brought our final dish, Nasi Lemak ($12). The tenderest chicken leg I’ve ever eaten, seemingly poached in rendered duck fat, was served with subdued curry sauce, coconut rice, and poached egg. The gooey mass was buttressed by mounds of pungent sardines, fiery chilies, peanuts, coconut, and onion, empowering — but never overpowering — the chicken.
Our Malaysian fit ending, our hands smeared, we were nicely, but firmly, encouraged to pay and depart. They don’t serve dessert, but a small petit four of sweet rice cake kept us smiling as we retired to Gansevoort’s tired scene. But we’ll be back; not for B+T hookups, Lotus bottle service, or namedropping at the SoHo House. We’ll be back for Zak’s Malaysian magic.