Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weighing in on the original Fatty 'Cue

(The 'Cue Coriander Bacon is like a deconstructed bacon & egg sandwich)

Fatty 'Cue (91 South 6th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

"If you are unable or unwilling to enjoy master fat, well, then, this probably isn't really the right place for you," laughs the waitress at Fatty 'Cue in Williamsburg, the headquarters of the Fatty Empire (which also includes a new Fatty 'Cue location in the West Village, as well as three Fatty Crab outposts--one in the U.S. Virgin Islands).  The waitress is referring to the Dragon Pullman Toast and Master Fat.  No, it's not a rap duo, but rather a $4 "snack" item listed on the menu.

Proof the Fatty Crew lets nothing valuable go to waist waste, these salty toast points are served with a demitasse of Master Fat, the wuzzled drippings of each of the various meats prepared on premises (lamb, pork, beef, duck...)  In reality, it's probably no worse for you than bread and butter (or an artificial spread), and it quite simply tastes absolutely incredible... like clarified bacon butter.  Although my conscience only allowed me to enjoy two slices, I don't regret one bite.  (Sidenote: the staff swears they eat here multiple times a week, and yet they look fit enough to run the NY Marathon tomorrow.)

Word has it that dinner service is a bustling funky scene in this joint's labyrinth of rooms, so I have limited my visits to lunchtime, where you can choose two of their famous dishes for $18, and even add two of their unique cocktails for an additional $10 (including a mimosa with fresh watermelon juice).  Non-alcoholic specialties include fresh watermelon juice with kaffir lime (above), thai iced coffee, and ginger beer.

A must-try dish for any first-timer is the 'Cue Coriander Bacon (pictured bite-size above and in full at the top of this post).  Described as a deconstructed bacon & egg sandwich, the build-it-yourself platter arrives with crispy toast points, juicy slabs of coriander and chili rubbed pork belly, pickled shallots, and a cup of curried custard.  The crispy toast, with the salty, almost herb-candied bacon, and creamy-cool-spiced custard, with crunchy and tangy halos of shallot is a savory culinary playground of texture, flavor, and temperature.

A secondary star of the lunch special is the "Bowl of Noodles," another seemingly simple, yet beautifully complex dish that exponentially transcends your standard bowl of ramen.  Soaked with the juices from resting meats, jeweled with scallions, chili, and a dusting of shrimp powder, and served with a ladle of sambal, the bowl disappears frighteningly quickly.  I challenge anyone to savor it longer--this stuff is addictive.

Descriptions on the menu serve as little more than a Cliff's Notes summary of each dish. Luckily, the servers are extremely knowledgeable, so take time to ask about various plates.  There seems to be a unique family atmosphere that bridges between the kitchen and front of the house, and the waitstaff talks about the cooks with an impressive amount of respect and enthusiasm.  The service you find at Fatty 'Cue is sadly very rare, and quite refreshing.

A prime example of an understated menu listing, the Tom Tuah (above) is described as a Thai-style pounded bean salad with market tomatoes and shrimp floss.  In reality, three different types of fresh green beans are pounded with mortar and pestle, tossed with thai basil and red chilies, palm sugar, drizzled with yuzu, and topped with shallots, fresh tomatoes, and a dusting of micro-shredded shrimp.

Look how finely the shrimp floss is shredded!  The best advice?  Take a few bites right away and enjoy the various components.  Then stir it all up, and let it blend together for a minute. Each bite tastes like a different salad, with hints of Asian citrus, seafood, and heat fighting for center stage.  Again, a simple and beautiful dish.

Now, are you ready for the sad news?  In case you wanted to try the sandwich named the best sandwich in New York City by New York Magazine, you're gonna have to wait for it to come out of retirement.  The former champion, now laid to rest (at least temporarily) featured smoked Brandt brisket on a crunchy Parisi baguette with smoked cabot cheddar, pickled red onions, aioli, chili jam, and cilantro sprigs.  It was worth every drool-worthy accolade it received.

The replacement features that same wonderful brisket on that same toasty loaf, but this time smeared with garlic butter, and house-made cow's milk ricotta studded with salted chilies, on a bed of mustard greens.  Now, I am extremely bummed the old version has gone into hiding (the chef hinted at the possibility of a seasonal return), but this bad boy was outstanding.  The creamy, smooth, mild cheese with crunchy bits of salty spiced chilis, with the tangy mustard greens on garlic toast was exceptional, and certainly worthy of appearing on any list.

Another fantastic new arrival on the menu is the Smoked Bobo Chicken sandwich.  Juicy shreds of poultry are sandwiched with crispy bacon and crunchy greens.  But the best part?  A dipping cup of paté with creme fraiche, almost like a creamy foie gras for dunking.

Another change on the menu is the replacement of the catfish nam prik (above) with a smoked eggplant nam prik.  The star ingredient is mixed with a fiery chili paste, and served with various crudité, as well as the crunchiest chicharrones this side of the Mason-Dixon line.

For dessert, gourmet candy bars are available from Tumbador, but I simply cannot resist the rotating pie selection by Allison Kave of First Prize Pies.  The Banoffee pie is ridiculous!  The crust is made entirely of British digestives (sweet, whole-wheat biscuits), filled with a layer of toffee caramel, sliced bananas, and topped with unsweetened whipped cream.

The S'Mores Pie is also maddeningly delicious and sinful.  The graham cracker crust is filled with a creamy, gooey, chocolate ganache, then topped with homemade marshmallow fluff that has been toasted to perfection.  It's a killer way to end a uniquely fantastic meal.

While the new West Village location looks promising, with what has been described as a more "grown-up menu" that is unique from the Williamsburg spot (buttermilk pappardelle with smoked goat ragu, or roasted whole turbot with sea urchin emulsion), something about the birthplace of Fatty 'Cue still feels special and almost historic.  It may not be the kind of chow you indulge on every day, but you'd be denying yourself a real treat not to at least pay a visit.

Fatty 'Cue on Urbanspoon

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