Nothing repels me from an eating establishment with greater velocity than a sign plastered on the façade out front proclaiming “As featured in Lonely Planet”, or worse a photocopied cut out from said pseudo edgy travelers publication. Their whole premise seems to be that they are giving you the inside scoop on a great food joint which no one else knows about. Ok cool, but um… how many copies of Lonely Planet are sold each year?
Anyway, Fatty Crab Restoran (Restaurant in Malay) thankfully doesn’t have such a sign. Hence no backpackers, no mat salehs (white people) and no tour buses. A great food joint frequented by mostly locals, is what you get when you hire a car and drive out into the steamy suburbs of Kuala Lumpur.
Upon entering the restaurant, our eyes are immediately drawn to the large white board menu centered strategically in the restaurant, screwed high on the wall and bigger in size than the scoreboard at the M.C.G., with clear pricing per quantity. It is an easy way for patrons of decide on what to order, an easy one eye see all concept. Having their menu written on the white board also saves on paper and printing costs.
No one however, seems to use it. They are all regulars, they know what
they like and they know what Fatty’s does well (most nights anyway) crab and chicken wings. These local eateries tend to be fitted out in a basic sparse way as the locals care more about the quality of their food rather than the décor. I felt rather weird not being able to paper menu in my hands whilst placing the order but Fatty Crab only has 8 dishes to choose from so it didn’t turn out to be that difficult.
As with all good Asian restaurants, the food comes out in a flash, plates accumulating faster than we could eat our way through them. We ordered a small serving of chicken wings which are seasoned very well and flash fried to maintain moist tender flesh with a crispy skin exterior. Following close behind is the signature dish, sweet and sour sauce crabs . The sauce tasted like a cross between plum sauce, sweet chili sauce and fermented bean paste tinged with a halo of crab essence. The staff recommended toast to sop up all that sauce the crab was swimming in. We also ordered a simple steamed version of the crab as well as a side of fried prawns with garlic.
The crabs were not fresh, were pre chopped, arrived in parts, not piping hot and no head shell. This is really quite difficult to get my head around. The word crab is in their name, their signature dish is crab, everyone orders crab, there is a giant size crab depicted on the outside of the restaurant, they opened a sister restaurant in New York which also specializes in crab (Which I have just discovered has closed down. Unconfirmed) yet the crab was terrible.
Fatty Crab dishes don’t so much fail to live up to the way they are described on the menu, it is more a case of the dishes fail to live up to the reputation created and perpetuated in the blogosphere. One would assume that with seafood, if you put up fresh produce, you are three quarters the way there. So wouldn’t you make every effort to get that bit right? And with the high volume of patrons and produce passing through the restaurant, how can the crabs NOT be fresh. The mind boggles and the shoulders droop. Sigh.
My food journey wasn’t supposed to end this way. This is supposed to be a tale of how a dazzling young urbanite fought her way through KL traffic at night into the dark suburban heartland to arrive at the corner of food lovers avenue and hype street, to be ambushed by bad service and poor hygiene to then be finally blown away by awesome food. No it didn’t end that way. On this occasion the food lineup wasn’t great. Yes, it has a good reputation and all the signs were there. Fluorescent lights illuminating white tiled walls check, white plastic chairs check, no frills plastic cutlery check, rude staff check, sweaty locals in flip flops eating with their mouths open check. So I leave disappointed and wondering, do I still believe the hype? Am I still convinced that Fattys does great crab MOST nights? Am I willing to hire a car and battle traffic royale though KL’s steaming suburban heart land to taste one more time the crab I know
Fattys can deliver? Yes, yes I am.
Contact: Fatty Crab Restoran – 2, Jalan SS 24/13, Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Ph. +60 3-7804 5758.
Angela is a service standards advocate with an airline background proudly endorsing Peranakan food and culture. Find her Tweets @servicefeedback