Tag: MePa

Springing forward to Fatty Crab

Sunday, March 9th, 2008 | All Things, Eats

Spring forward! It felt strange meeting MLF and LW for dinner with the sun still shining brightly overhead, but our respective evening commitments pushed the early dinner even earlier. In their case: a sexy cooking class. (Please direct all follow-up queries about the class particulars to them, thank you.)

No matter, I can eat at any time. I can also sleep at any time, in just about any place — ambient noise and lack of bed, notwithstanding: an ability honed through sleep-deprived years of riding the subway to and from school. But I digress. When in her old ‘hood, MLF likes to visit Mexicana Mama, so we were all looking forward to settling in for some salsa and margaritas on a lazy Sunday.

But alas, it was not to be.

Mex Mama closed

And that is how we ended up at Fatty Crab, farther up on Hudson.

Fatty Crab

At that early hour, we easily scored a table at the popular MePa spot. The pungent, delicious smells assaulted us as soon we stepped inside — that signature fishy funk American chef Zak Pelaccio came to crave during his time in Kuala Lumpur. Pelaccio is a proponent of Asian flavors in general, and his menu reflects that. Critics and diners alike have embraced his low-key, but sophisticated take on Malaysian cuisine.

“Fatty Duck,” Jalan Alor Chicken Wings, Heritage Foods Pork Ribs…. it all sounded divine. I don’t think I’ve been sadder to be off of meat than I was this evening. The Watermelon Pickle and Crispy Pork salad was tempting; Robert Sietsema recently revealed it to be one of his favorite foods. I settled instead for a glass of watermelon lime juice, which was bright and refreshing, but not the same.

MLF’s Short Rib Rendang, however, nearly did me in; fellow vegetarian LW and I hovered over the platter, taking in the heady perfume of meat, kaffir lime, coconut and chili. (The dish made an appearance at the Village Voice’s Choice Eats event at the Puck Building a couple days later.)

The three of us split an order of Lent-approved Veggie Steamed Buns and the Malay Fish Fry (finger-sized fillets of tumeric tempura, crab curry, green chili, tamaki) over shrimp-scented sticky rice.

Fatty Crab

The dishes emerged from the kitchen as they were ready (we were forewarned), and half an hour later, the pièce de résistance: the Chili Crab, a whole imposing Dungeness crab, served in a deep bowl of murky, red chili sauce. Mmm… dungeness crab. Framing the edge were points of smoky white toast, grilled over hardwood charcoal — all the better to sop up the run-off of chili crab juices pooled at the bottom. It is not a delicate affair, but entirely worth the mess.

Can’t wait for the UWS spinoff

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Burrata at La Bottega

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008 | All Things, Eats

After popping in at Pasita for an apéritif with SK, I left him to his dinner while I set off to meet MLF at La Bottega inside the possibly haunted Maritime Hotel. I strolled in through that familiar lobby, where my friend was waiting at the bar with a glass of red wine and a smile.

The hotel restaurant has a casually rustic Italian feel, reminiscent of ‘inoteca or a slew of other downtown Keith McNally clones: long bar, prominent wood pizza oven, white tile, wooden tables, wine bottle-lined walls… The Times less charitably described the decor as a “mix of Italian trattoria and 1950’s high school.” La Bottega’s biggest draw, though, is its beautifully lit, tree-lined patio; on warmer evenings the deck overflows with the bold and the beautiful — or is that the beautiful and the damned? — and offers a prime vantage point for MePa people watching.

La Bottega

We were spared the crowds this chilly winter night, but the green twinkling lights just outside the picture windows cast their own warm glow over us.

La Bottega

Tonight MLF, who knows how I love cheese, introduced me to the joys of burrata, a specialty fresh mozzarella originating from the Puglia region of southern Italy. The decadent cheese derives its name from burro, the Italian word for “butter.” To produce it, cheese makers stretch a still-warm, thin layer of fresh mozzarella curd around a pillowy soft blend of heavy cream and tender, unspun mozzarella curds, or stracciatelle (“little rags”). Traditionally, the delicate pouch is sealed off with a topknot, brined and then wrapped in asphodel (similar to leek) leaves. The relatively recent trendiness of burrata in the United States poses a challenge for suppliers of the extremely perishable cheese: burrata imported from Italy is usually two days old by the time it reaches New York, one day old if it’s flown in from California, where artisanal producers like Gioia Cheese Co. hand-form up to 1500 pounds of burrata balls a day.

At La Bottega, it’s served up in a lusciously rich Insalata Caprese: the soft pouch surrounded by halved grape tomatoes and torn basil, and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper. Once pierced, the burrata gives up its sweetly creamy, oozing center — perfect for scooping up with pieces of crusty bread. Wow. 

Dim lighting doesn’t do the dish justice, but here it is:


The San Francisco Chronicle, in a 2006 article about burrata, wrote that the cheese’s “gushing inner richness has sent shivers of desire up and down the West Coast.” Here on the East Coast, pound-size servings are available for sale at purveyors like Fairway, Zabar’s, Agata & Valentina and Williamsburg’s Bedford Cheese Shop — check out their rather evocative description — a few of which also carry versions of burrata filled with porcini mushrooms or black truffles.

Tagliatelle al Ragú Bolognese — fresh pasta ribbons with beef, pork & veal ragú:

Ragu Bolognese

As we made our way through a leisurely meal, our seats vibrated to pounding beats coming from the Hiro Ballroom below, where the Hip Rock Reggae show with guest DJs Biz Markie and Roxy Cottontail was in full swing.

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