Fatty ’Cue isn’t the easiest restaurant to figure out. It looks like a dive bar (it used to be one), feels like a house party (the music is loud, cocktails deadly, staff exuberant) and serves food that’s kind of Malaysian alongside barbecue that’s all over the map.
The muddled Williamsburg restaurant, Zak Pelaccio’s third, is a passion project that’s nonetheless very much of the moment. Even more than April Bloomfield’s Breslin or David Chang’s Ssm Bar, it’s an unabashed celebration of carnivorous gluttony.
For a certain breed of daredevil diner—Scoville-scale junkies, pork-fat fanatics—Fatty ’Cue is right in the sweet spot. Though I sometimes count myself among the meat-obsessed, even I have my limits. The restaurant pushes them, with a menu that’s a paean to fire and fat. Certainly most of it tastes good doing down. But banish the thought of ever finding a well-balanced meal. The few vegetable sides offered as foils for the meat—spiced cucumbers; oil-slicked celery—are too frail to form much of a buffer.
And so you indulge, in bacon nuggets to start—house-cured hunks with yellow-curry custard for dipping—and more bacon to follow, in an incendiary bowl of chili-flecked clams. Even a simple order of bread—a spongy white Chinatown Pullman—pushes the envelope, swapping out butter for the rendered fat of every beast in the house (beef, lamb, pork, duck)—a spin on schmaltz for only the hardiest hearts.
Those dishes, and a few fiery detours, are what pass for Malaysian cuisine in this latest Fatty outpost. The basic formula is the same as it is at the others, with family-style dishes arriving willy-nilly for sharing the moment they’re done. While that works well enough at Fatty Crab—devoted purely to Malaysia’s funkiest flavors—at this meat emporium, the onslaught of dishes can be a bit much.
The Malay cooking here is mostly an adjunct to the real reason the restaurant is packed: Robbie Richter’s winning ’cue. Out in the restaurant’s concrete garden, the former Hill Country pitmaster—a partner in the venture—is smoking some of the city’s most distinctive meats.
Pelaccio and his head chef, Corwin Kave, add international flourishes to often-delicious effect. Wagyu brisket from Texas, so gorgeously fatty it melts on the tongue, works beautifully in a DIY sandwich made up of components from the Pelaccio pantry: chile jam, pickled onions, cilantro and Chinese steamed buns. Tender heritage pork ribs are well matched to the puddle of palm sugar and fish sauce underneath. The shredded lamb shoulder, a superior gyro featuring house-made pita and goat yogurt, owes more to Greece than Asia. The only thing missing: refreshing sides to round out these meat-heavy plates.
Without them, the prospect of dessert may seem obscene. Though Pelaccio generally skimps on the sweet stuff, this time around the chef offers a showcase for a friend of the house, First Prize Pies of Brooklyn, a stall and delivery enterprise run by Kave’s sister, Allison. Her marshmallow-capped s’mores pie does a fine job of extinguishing the lingering heat of New York’s most piquant and international barbecue—but doesn’t offer more clarity as to what this place is about.
Drink this: The ’Cue ($8) is as fiery as the food, with a generous dose of Tabasco added to smoked pineapple juice and overproof rum.
Eat this: Bone broth, Wagyu brisket, pork ribs, pulled lamb, s’mores pie
Sit here: Though solo diners will want to pull up a stool at the bar, the main dining room, hidden behind the kitchen, is much more spacious than the low-ceilinged bar room. Stay tuned for tables in the concrete garden.
Conversation piece: At the end of service every Saturday night, Pelaccio throws a whole pig on the fire. Hacked into individual portions, it’s served up Sunday and into Monday until it’s sold out.
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