Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Is Having A Second Branch The Same As Being A Chain?

I went to the newest addition to the Upper West Side, Zak Pelaccio's Fatty Crab on 76th and Broadway.  I can't help but think, in retrospect, that this restaurant is way too cool for the Upper West Side.  It's hard to envision a bunch of affluent, middle-aged Jews sitting down to a fried oyster banh mi and a plate of Malaysian chicken wings. 

But New York is all about expansion.  All great restaurants now have to have an "uptown" and "downtown" location.  It's the new hot thing.  Small spot downtown, where space is limited.  Large, sprawling space uptown that never feels full.  The American way.  

Needless to say, the larger Fatty Crab was not full on a Monday night.  We sat down and had cocktails, a Mai Tai for my date (adorned with brandied cherries) and a watermelonish cocktail for me (adorned with pansy petals).  We ordered the special, a fried oyster po' boy banh mi.  The oysters were good, but the sandwich lacked some of the subtlety of better versions.  Next came the so-called Fatty Dog, a spicy sausage covered in cilantro, pickles, radish, and onions.  My date declared it too spicy.  I don't believe in such terminology. 

My favorite by far was a sticky salty sweet noodle dish topped with baby shrimp, cockles, sliced chicken, steak strips, hot peppers, pineapple, and the motherload of brown sauce.  The noodles were long and similar in consistency to good udon.  The sauce was excessive, but it was the kind of excess I like.  We ordered more cocktails, a tequila-yuzu concoction for him and a bourbon-Pedro Ximenez drink for me.  The Fatty Duck arrived, three pieces of duck breast served on the bone over rice.  "The chef recommends you eat this with your hands," the waiter said.  We obliged.  It was messy and slightly overcooked, though the plentiful breast fat made up for it.  I would have eaten the crab special, too, crabs doused in chili paste and served over white bread.  But it would have been too much food. 

We ordered dishes that are native to the UWS branch of the restaurant, which meant not eating some of the dishes I love more (sliders, tea sandwiches, rice noodles with Chinese sausage), but that was part of the point.  

I prefer the frenetic, intimate setting of the Hudson Street restaurant.  And I don't see the point in opening a nearly identical restaurant in the same city.  Regardless, I could eat those noodles again and again. 

Fatty Crab
2170 Broadway
New York, NY 10024

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