A few weeks ago an Angel and I ate at the Fatty Crew’s newest Malaysian infused barbecue joint in south Williamsburg, Fatty ‘Cue. Located a few steps below ground level, its interior encased in wood with uber dimmed lights, housing raucousy music and a chatty crowd, the restaurant immediately gave off a homey, hip, and old school vibe that was welcoming and friendly enough to enter without skeptic intimidation or wide-eyed cringes (I tend to do this in restaurants deemed “too hip” such as the aforementioned). The NYT review spends half its time warning snooty toot lawyers from the upper west side from entering Fatty ‘Cue as it may “feel uncomfortable for those who hear more music at Lincoln Center than at Southpaw”. Why this article decides to create such a divide between cultural identities that are ultimately minute and more importantly, irrelevant, is beyond me. But I suppose I play along with this I-hate-hipsters-but-I-am-a-closet-hipster mentality so should just keep my mouth shut (although I can convincingly argue that I am not a hipster, for hipsters originate from non-NY states and are white and practice Irony like a devout Jesus freak).
Back to Fatty ‘Cue. The space is portioned to 3 confusing small square spaces, we were directed to the mezzanine where I believe the kitchen was, we were seated next to the swinging doors and let me tell you, it was HOT. It felt stuffy and I was sweating and grumpy because of it but tried not to let that get to me too much, reminding myself, I am here to eat some supposedly awesome food. There were some great wall decals/installations with street lights and birdie silhouettes, an uber hipster indie urban look if you ask me. On the ceiling hung the ubiquitous pig chandelier, it’s glitter pink skin slowly turning as light bulbs dangling off its belly, portraying the death and enlightenment of the hog that is worshipped and consumed in this place.
Fatty ‘Cue, like its sister joints Fatty Crab in the west village and upper west side (I am yet to dine at these joints, but will have to asap), joins forces of Malaysian cuisine, with all its eclectic fermented condiments and chili based sauces and hand eating techniques (fingers as utensils are highly encouraged here), and smoked meat. They’ve got ole hickory pits in the kitchen which cooks the meat ever so slowly and tenderly, infusing the beauty of smoke into fatty cuts of meat.
The menu flaunts two (pricey in my humble opinion) types of dishes: snacks and specialties, or easily put, appetizers and mains. The every so friendly waiter encouraged us to share all our plates that’s what they do in this southeast Asian country. We started with the drink specials, I rarely drink but was in a flamboyant mood so ordered the Smokin’ Bone: Whisky, smoked pineapple, lime, and chocolate bitters. Sounds enticing no? It might very well be that I don’t have a trained alocholic’s palette to appreciate such complicated cocktails but I didn’t like this drink too much. It was an odd sensation of tasting sour with burnt sweetness. It was bizarre. I didn’t finish it.
We then went ahead and ordered some snacks and specialties which were served in cheap plastic plates you get in chinatown and wooden chopsticks. This both credits and discredits the restaurant in my opinion as they succeed in being this down to earth, homey, casual and nonchalant joint that is welcome to all, except for the fact that it’s not really all that cheap. But perhaps that is only because I am so damn broke? Not sure but the bill came out way higher than an Angel and I’s usual eatventures.
The most prized of our choices was the Nasi Ulam, a “rice salad” snack consisting of turmeric spice blend, ikan bilis (tiny dried anchovies), ginger, and herbs. It was a most balanced and perfect blend of sticky, chewy, crunchy, tangy, earthy, and fragrant. I want to make it everyday for lunch. It is and tastes healthy. It’s a specialty all to its own, a one in all shebang that requires no other helpers to be consumed.
My main was the Ikan Bakar, whole mackerel, turmeric salt, smoked and seared in banana leaf, chili-garlic-lime sauce. The whole smoked fish came with the chili sauce and soy sauce and had no starchy condiment so I ordered the buns which was completely unnecessary considering I had the heavenly rice salad. The fish itself was mildly seasoned and spiced, working less as a focal point and more as a base for the sauce to be dipped into. It was however cooked beautifully, so tender and delicate the meat was. It reminded me of the fish I ate (not sure what it is) growing up with a bowl of rice and nothing more. Fishy and salty enough to hit those taste buds on the side that make you pucker a bit but not too overpowering to disgust you, the sauce was a bit too spicy for me but combined with the rice salad it was a great combo.
Here’s the recipe.
An Angel ordered the Fazio Farm Red Curry Duck, with sweet pickled daikon (there were only 3 stubs which just isn’t enough), and a sauce bowl of smoked red curry. These guys obviously love to smoke EVERYTHING, and that’s great to an extent, except for the fact and wish that curry should have somehow been already toppled onto the duck. But perhaps that’s not the way the Malaysians do it. You’ve got to use your fingers, rip the meaty and tender pieces of duck apart, and dip the shit out of it into the curry. Don’t even try using a knife, although an Angel did start off that way. Eventually he went hogwild with his fingers. Flavorful, crispy skin, fatty juices, and chewy, the few bites of the duck I had was quite fulfilling for my tastebuds.
Now I’m wondering why more restaurants don’t use this ole hickory pit smoked technique more often which provides for the magically tender and juicy as opposed to the fast cook grilling method which often leaves meat dry and charred. Is it an expensive equipment? Does it take too long since it’s a slow cooking process and restaurants just don’t have time for that? I believe Fatty ‘Cue butchers their meat in house, use seasonal and local ingredients when they can, and make all the sauces in house, three elements that ultimately christen them into the hip and young food movement of yonder.
I’d be more than happy to return and explore everything else on their menu, I’d like to think it’s worth the price.
91 South 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211