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Fatty ’Cue: No Revelations, Just Good Food

Fatty ’Cue, a Southeast Asian–meets-American-style barbecue joint in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is subterranean and sweaty. Loud ’60s R&B on the stereo. A tiny space, dark, and raucous. A place you could see yourself getting really drunk in, happily, while eating a small mountain of ribs.

Opened this year by Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Crab fame, the restaurant was talked about endlessly by the Brooklyn food-nerd scene. Its style can be summed up as fish sauce meets pit smoker.

When we went, there was smoked whole pig with bao buns on the side, lamb ribs, homemade bacon (served as an appetizer with a custard curry), and a handful of noodle dishes. We had the pork spareribs (three to a plate). They had good chewiness when you bit into them, rather than collapsing from the bone in mushiness. The flavor was subtly smoky, rather than eating chimney smoke, and sweet-savory from the light sauce of palm sugar, fish sauce, and chiles.

Two side salads were refreshing but nothing to write home about: a fish saucy celery salad and a simple cucumber salad topped with an Asian-style vinaigrette with toasted peanuts. Our other dish, smoked crab laksa, was a hot noodle soup that was intensely tart, savory, and delicious. The murky brown broth was smoky, lime-y sour, fishy, meaty, and sweet all at once. There were plenty of shiitakes and dried anchovies besides the noodles, but we could have used more crab. (We kept asking, “Is this crab? No. Is this crab? No.”)

Perhaps hearing about how Fatty ’Cue was “about to open” for months, or reading Sam Sifton’s glowing New York Times review, made us expect some kind of game-changer à la Momofuku Noodle Bar. The food was good, but it did not feel like a revelation. But hey! Nothing wrong with that. Ultimately, it’s a great neighborhood joint. Which, if you live in the neighborhood, we’re sure makes you extremely stoked.