Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fatty Crab

My obssession with Fatty Crab's short ribs was threatening to take over my life. Tasting the tender ribs braised with lime, coconut and chili at the Choice Eats food event whetted my appetite for more, thus I was desperate for an excuse - any excuse - to drag friends over to the Meatpacking District and re-enact savoring the spiciness of the dish tempered by the coconut flakes - this time with an entire order, not just a morsel. As luck would have it, J.'s birthday was just around the corner, and when C. and I got around to discussing possibilities for a celebratory dinner, there was but one name that floated out of my lips - Fatty Crab! I hasten to add that I knew J. would look forward to trying another one of their specialties, Dungeoness crab with chili sauce, so it wasn't totally self-serving. Haha.

Fatty Crab turned out to be really small. And packed to the gills. Decor was...what decor?! We waited near the bar area, artfully dodging the other patrons' elbows and wait staff scurrying about the restaurant, and tried to carry on a conversation over the blaring hip-hop music. After a few minutes, our casually-attired, mildly-attractive server led us to a basic wooden table near the kitchen and explained Fatty Crab's philosphy ("dishes are family-style, meant for sharing, and come in no particular order"), and steered us to their specialties. J. and C. busied themselves craning their necks in the servers' direction and talking about them. "Well, they look like members of a boy band, actually", said J. "Is that so?! More like backpacker types found in the beaches of Thailand or small towns in Guatemala", I countered.

The timely arrival of the Fatty Duck ended this spirited debate, and we concentrated on this variety of flavorful chunks of meat instead. The duck was a tad too salty for my taste, though the sugar coating balanced it a bit. Both J. and C. enjoyed the Dungeoness crab, especially dunking the pieces of toast into the yummy chili sauce, and before we knew it we were ordering more bread (for an extra $4). That was great news for me, not being much of a crustacean fan, as it was left to me to devour most of the short ribs and coconut rice (not part of a grand scheme. really). We were quite full after finishing these three dishes, so decided to just cancel the oyster omelet that never showed up - a small misstep by our friendly band member or backpacker server, whichever you prefer.

Fatty Crab in New York

Monday, March 24, 2008

Excellent Pork Chop House

Lunchtime on Sundays in Chinatown is often a mob scene - scores of tourists lined up outside the grand dimsum emporiums near Mott St., and inside diners are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder that you can't help but eye the neighboring table's entree selections and overhear the sordid details of their chatter as you peruse the menu. Opting for a more sedate lunch away from the crowds, I strolled a few blocks towards the relative calm of Doyers St. and chanced upon Excellent Pork Chop House. Although I've walked past this restaurant since the 90s, for one reason or another haven't had occasion to sample their eponymous specialty, which borders on amazing considering how big a fan I am of pork chops. "Let's see if the pork chops here live up to their billing", I thought, amused at the restaurant's bold name.

Munching on a generous portion of pan-fried pork chop over rice with ground beef and veggies ($4.75), I surveyed the scene. Like most Chinatown restaurants, most tables were occupied, not by hip young people but by families with strangely obedient children; decor was at best minimal, though on the wall directly above my table was a glass display case containing a collection of Chinese statuettes and Precious Moments dolls dressed in gowns. The noise level was atypically muted - the scene reminded me of those lonely, depressing Edward Hopper paintings showing people sitting at the counter of all-night diners - in fact the only semblance of semi-loud conversation took place among three teenaged-girls at the next table eagerly discussing, from what I could surmise, their homework from Religion class. Something about the foregiveness of sins. A fitting topic on Easter Sunday, I chuckled to myself.

Excellent Pork Chop House in New York

Friday, March 14, 2008

Choice Eats (and Drinks) @ Choice Eats

So, after an extended absence from both blogging and dining out (other than cheap, filling Sunday lunches in Chinatown), what better way to kick off 2008 posts by talking about a superb dining and drinking event last week. As shown in the graphic above, the food tasting event in question is the Village Voice's Choice Eats, featuring 30 or so restaurants handpicked by their food critic Robert Sietsema. I rarely have occasion to read the weekly paper (though the number of TS escort ads never fails to astound), and have never read any of Mr. Sietsema reviews, but this didn't stop me from joining about 50 other members of my World Food Lovers dining group in line outside the Puck building, freezing our body parts off as our stomachs grumbled and excitement levels increased.

Once inside, we were greeted by two roomfuls of restaurant booths offering dishes of ethnic cuisines ranging from Bangladeshi to Cambodian to Nepalese. A veritable feast for world dining enthusiasts. Despite my intent to pace myself, I made a classic rookie mistake by getting dazzled by free booze. Before I knew it, I had downed a shot of Jagermeister and some white wine - on an empty stomach. At S.'s urging, we lined up for the short ribs accompanied by sticky coconut rice at Fatty Crab, which turned out to be one of the best dishes we tasted that night. Another favorite was the sweet dessert at Madiba which had me and S. shamelessly lining up for another portion. The server recognized her as a "repeat customer" and his face broke out into a huge smile, much to her relief.

Some members of the group compared notes on their favorite eats (Deshi Biryani is the bomb, apparently), while I alternated among hitting as many of the restaurants' booths as possible, ogling the beauteous ladies at the Fragoli table, and the libations. Several local microbreweries were represented, and among the beers I tried, I especially enjoyed the Toasted Lager from Blue Point Brewing Company out in Long Island (who knew?!). Happily enough, they informed me that their brews are available at Whole Foods. Yay.

As you can see, I was enjoying myself too much to take any pictures. They might have come out a little blurry anyway LOL. Check out these event pictures though from the World Food Lovers site. In the end, we all left stuffed, happy that we came early (some tables ran out of food by 830pm), and eagerly counting down to next year's food tasting event.

UPDATE: Scoured the web for other bloggers' takes on the Choice Eats event.
Here are a few more lucid and detailed ones than mine.

Soopling at Salty/Savory/Sweet
Jessica at Food Mayhem
Dave at Eating in Translation