I had heard so much about Fatty ‘Cue – a minimalist barbecue restaurant in Williamsburg where barbecue meets Asian spices and flavors – that it was on my must-visit list of restaurants. Most of the reviews were superlative and everyone seemed very excited about the Manhattan location of Fatty ‘Cue. So, on a night when other Open Table users were somewhat less excited about going to Fatty ‘Cue in the West Village, I thought this is the perfect opportunity for me!
I took a quick look at the menu before I made my reservation. There was a kale salad and an apple salad, both of which looked interesting. There was a Nasi Ulam (Thai rice salad), farmer’s cheese served with chilies, and a “Smoked Bobo chicken” (not really sure what “bobo chicken” meant, but we thought we would find out at the restaurant). Overall, the restaurant met my criteria for eating out – mostly positive reviews, more than a couple of salad options, and at least one lean protein dish on the menu. That is how we ended up at Fatty ‘Cue in the West Village. Our dining experience, however, did not match expectations, we left the restaurant disappointed, and are sure that we shall not return. Read on to see why.
The restaurant has a nice bar area, where it seemed like you could have dinner as well. With it’s red exposed brick walls, and soft lighting, it was definitely a cool place to hang out with friends. On that evening, most tables were groups of friends / family. We were excited about checking out a new restaurant for ourselves, and were very pleased that we were shown to our table without a wait at the bar. The red exposed brick walls also meant that there is nothing to absorb the sound generated by the guests. It was quite hard to hear your dining partner, but hey, if the food is good, it’s worth putting up with the effort to hear and be heard, right?
We were told that everything is meant for sharing and that the portions are not too large, so it’s a good idea to get 4 dishes for the two of us. We got a Tiger Beer Michelada while we were deciding what to order (when we already knew what we wanted). Having an Asian beer with spicy food (especially when the food has flavors and spices from Asia), makes the food much more interesting. We should have just had regular Tiger Beer. The Michelada was extremely spicy – the first disappointment of the evening. It might have tasted better with more acidity from the lime juice, i.e., we should have asked for more lime juice. We did not do so, and did not enjoy the Michelada either.
Second disappointment of the evening: the kale salad (with creamy green peppercorn and cincalok dressing) was not listed on the menu in the restaurant. What? How can a restaurant not serve a seasonal green such as kale in winter? I think they said that they were not serving it that night. Well, that just meant that we were having only one salad that night. In retrospect, it may not have been a bad idea after all. Upon further research about the cincalok dressing, I now understand that it includes fermented shrimp paste (with an intense smell that I prefer to avoid).
We ordered the rest of the dishes that we wanted – the apple salad, the farmer’s cheese with chilies, Nasi Ulam (Thai rice salad), and half a Smoked “bobo” chicken.
While we were waiting, we were served a “Bone broth” – a broth made from all the bones of the meat that had been barbecued – compliments from the chef. We could have refused to have this broth if we so desired, but we were keen to know how it tasted. It was a thin, dark, salty, and smokey broth with tiny pieces of cilantro or scallions or both. It was a nice broth, but, if the restaurant expected us to be thrilled that we were served the “bone broth”, it was certainly lost on us.
The apple salad‘s description was very promising: cheddar, pumpkin seeds, and a mustard vinaigrette. Third disappointment of this evening was the apple salad. Well, it wasn’t a bad salad, but it was just meh! Why? It had a lot of green leaves. That is expected of a salad you say, but the non-green ingredients were not too many to leave an impression on the salad. There were 3 – 4 apple pieces, and a lot of tangy vinaigrette that tasted nothing like mustard vinaigrette, but oh, there were a few mustard seeds that I could see. There were probably 2 pieces of cheddar. And whatever happened to the pumpkin seeds? If they were in the salad, they certainly did not land up in the bowl that we were served.
The farmer’s cheese was served with a soft roll, and some chilies. “What is farmer’s cheese?” – we asked the server. He said: “It’s just farmer’s cheese. It’s fresh!”, and so he was gone even before the word “fresh” registered in our minds. How insightful!! And no, he did not offer to find out from the kitchen. Fourth disappointment of the day, a server who did not now what he was serving and made no effort to display an iota of interest in making sure his guests’ queries were answered. I have since found out that farmer’s cheese often refers to unripened cheese made by adding rennet to milk to coagulate it. See this Wiki entry for more details. Also, farmer’s cheese can be referred to as queso blanco or queso campesino or by many other names. Indian paneer is a form of farmer’s cheese. For more details. see this Chowhound post.
Back to the dish now. The farmer’s cheese dish however, was one of the best dishes of the evening. The cheese, was soft, creamy, moist, sweet in a refreshing way (like sweet cream butter), and lumpy. The soft roll was freshly baked, warm to touch, sweet to taste, and shaped like a pau (Portuguese bread, also used in Indian cooking Pav Bhaji). The chilies (red and green) were sliced and were placed in a small bowl of salty vinegar – overall, not too fiery or hot, but could impart a nice kick to the dish. The last ingredient (Vinegar) is an assumption, but we were pretty sure that we would get no help what-so-ever from our server for a clarification. The soft sweet roll with the spicy chilies was a fantastic accompaniment to the rich, creamy cheese. If you order nothing else from this restaurant, get this dish for sure.
Did I mention earlier that we did not know what to expect from a dish called “Bobo chicken”? Well, the result that came up on an impromptu search was a restaurant by the same name in Oklahoma city with a high rating on Yelp. Super helpful again, in this context!! The dish we got had a few pieces of chicken with the skin on. The chicken smelled of smoke, and tasted slightly sweet, although it tasted mostly bland. It arrived with a salty tangy, dipping sauce that had scallions, and peanuts floating in it. The chicken was edible to say the least, but was palatable mainly because of the dipping sauce. The dish may have been more interesting with a golden brown crispy skin, but alas, that was not the case!! This Bobo chicken dish was the fifth disappointment of the evening. I expected more from a smoked chicken dish at a barbecue restaurant that has been rated highly.
Now for the Nasi Ulam, a Thai rice salad. It looked extremely appetizing and smelled of spices and fish. There were some pieces of something crispy and crunchy – a welcome texture. But, one bite and I was convinced that I cold not eat this dish. It smelled to much of fish (or the sea) for me to eat it. Now, I am aware that the smell of fish and shrimp are very appetizing for some people, but certainly not for me. Turns out that those crispy, crunchy pieces were fried anchovies. Sixth disappointment of the evening. Why, did I assume that this Nasi Ulam would be vegetarian? It came across a recipe from Rasa Malaysia (blog) for Nasi Ulam just today, and the recipe includes dried shrimp!!
Overall, a not-so-pleasant meal, mostly because, I expected something more from this restaurant and did not check about each dish before I ordered for the evening, and because, the server could not care more about the guests he was serving. in any restaurant, it’s fine by me if the range of vegetarian dishes is limited, but the few vegetarian dishes should taste good.
Why would you go to Fatty ‘Cue?
- If you are interested in barbecued meat
- If you are willing to splurge on your calorific intake with deep-fried bacon, butter-milk fried rabbit, chicken liver, etc.
- If you are willing to shout to be heard by your fellow diners
If you are vegetarian, however,
- good luck with the salads, so you get the items listed in the on-line menu
- good luck your server so you can ask him to omit the shrimp dressing from the kale salad, or the anchovies from Nasi ulam, and
- enjoy the farmer’s cheese dish!
I am hoping that my experience at Fatty ‘Cue will serve you well, to help decide either to go elsewhere or to order dishes without certain ingredients.
Fatty Cue Address and Phone: 50 Carmine Street (Between Bedford St and Bleecker St), New York, NY 10014; (212) 929 5050