Ok, so the whole of Bangalore knows about The Fatty Bao already – even though they very sneakily opened without an official ‘I want all the P3 types at my launch party’ party. The crowds have been trickling in from the word go and even though Bangalore is a sucker for new places – this one seems to be running on more than just novelty. The Olive Beach and Monkey Bar team has given Bangalore another enviable establishment that not only puts food first, but also serves it up with style. Of course The Fatty’s style is quirky, fun, slightly eccentric and casual. The approach to casual however, is never casual with Chef Manu Chandra. As soon as you walk up (or take the elevator) to the 3rdfloor, you know that the seemingly disparate elements still tie in to form a cohesive space. I’m thinking Kung Fu Panda, meets acid-tripping-hippie, meets kid-on-candy’s bedroom, meets Asian tea house! (Don’t ask me where I get my aesthetic!) You can either choose to eat in la-la-land or head up to the rooftop bar. Both areas pay homage to the ‘garden’ part of Bangalore and you can enjoy your meals gazing at the tree canopy. Let’s just say I like to dine inside during the day and head over to the rooftop during sundown – after all we must make use of our fabulous weather, no?
The décor might be a little lesson for design students (in a good way!) but what we really want to focus on is the food. The eponymous restaurant clearly wants to be famous for one thing – it’s pillowy soft Baos. (Ok, maybe it’s Ramen as well, because Manu is supposed to be a Ramen aficionado – but let’s admit it, Fatty Ramen doesn’t really have the same ring to it as Fatty Bao!). For those who don’t know what Baos are, Wikipedia does a decent enough job of explaining it, but Fatty serves the open faced variety – almost like a sandwich. I’ve tried three of the six on offer, but I could make love to the Char Siu Bao. (Sorry Arv, we all have our quirks!). The BBQ Pork belly is all kinds of exquisite and the Hoisin sauce just adds that sweet magic that pork seems to love. Green Apple Kimchi (I know!) adds a tangy crunch and balances all that heaviness. Not that I would ever complain! These come two to a portion and I generally end up eating both myself. Just saying.
You have some pretty reasonably priced rolls like Asparagus Tempura & Cream Cheese and Spicy Tuna Tartare – so all those California Roll loving fiends, will be a happy bunch. The dumplings are a throwback to the ones at LTO and the Shrimp & Pork Har Gow, the Beef & Jalepeno Gyoza and the Duck with Hoisin and Spring Onion Sheng Jian Bao are my picks. (Yes, I’ve pretty much eaten through their menu!)
Apart from rolls and dumplings the Small Plates are all the rage at Fatty (so are the kitty party aunties) and you have quite a selection to contend with. The Brie Tempura is my favorite rendition of fried cheese! I just wish they wouldn’t be so stingy with the plum sauce. I get that small dots of sauce on the plate look a lot more fancy than a big blob, but substance over looks Ok? Okay? Oookaay?
After saying all that, it does put me to shame that I ordered the Vietnamese Sugarcane Chicken, just because I like how it looked on the neighboring table. Sue me. Pretty pedestrian (clearly I’m talking about it from a Vietnamese’s point of view 😛 ) but the sugarcane sticks are a fun way to eat a chicken meatball, if any. The Duck Pizza was another one of those experiments that I wanted to be a part of. Considering it’s notoriously difficult to cook duck just so – a tortilla base with shredded duck, crispy duck skin crumble, plum sauce, spicy mayonnaise and togarashi sounded ambitious. The final product was a nacho like (ok masala papad like) construction with fun flavors, but I couldn’t detect any crispy duck skin. My duck loving friend however grabbed the plate and polished it off – so it does satisfy some demographic. Every other writer and blogger worth their salt has spoken about the fabulous Salmon Carpaccio – so I won’t waste my breath here. I just want to say that it might come out looking fancier than it should, if Manu himself slices the sashimi. 😛 #True Story 1.
Now coming to the second thing on the menu that’s become my standard order – The Fatty Bao PB&J. No, this is not the Elvis version, but I’m pretty sure he would have swapped his own version for this, in a heartbeat. Of course I speak with ultimate authority on the topic, because the trend these days is to assume what a dead person would have said/ or liked/ or wanted. (This is in no way implicating our religious leaders and their dictum’s but then again – this is a food blog and no one should really take me seriously. Exit Plan A in action).
Sorry for deviating from the encomium but I’m talking about the Fatty PB&J – Twice cooked Pork belly with Mustard Miso Jam. (because cooking it once doesn’t garner the gourmet vote :P). The striated meat and fat form a perfect place for the mustard miso jam to spread its goodness. If you had any doubt that this place has a secret pact with the devil, this savory-sweet-porky square will lay it to rest.
Once you stop going crazy with the small plates, you will eventually reach the Ramen page like I did. Since we’re not cool like New York, Tokyo or Barcelona to have our own Ramen houses, Fatty Bao doubles up to give us solace. The Chasu Ramen is popular with bacon brains like me and has the most flavorful broth. With Pork stock, bacon, braised pork belly, bean sprouts, marinated soft boiled egg and scallions – it packs in quite a punch. Mine also had sweet corn this time and it didn’t make any difference either way. A lighter,daintier version is the Seafood Ramen with grilled Seafood, Black Pepper Ramen and Crispy Prawn head. Or you could go Via Malaysiaand order the coconut broth with kaffir lime, chilli, lemon grass, galangal and basil. Apparently the broth for most Ramens is simmered for 14-18 hours and last I heard, they tried making the noodles in-house. So here’s my verdict on the Ramen – I much prefer a stronger flavored broth and thicker, chewier noodles. But in a land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king and I dutifully bow to the Fatty Ramen’s efforts.
The Nonya Seafood curry with Torch Ginger Flowers was finally ordered last week. Every other time I have been denied this dish due to lack of some ingredient. (I have also got denied the Asparagus and Bacon Fried Rice on numerous occasions due to lack of fresh asparagus..duh!) It’s a lovely turmeric curry with little sides of roasted peanuts, fried onions, lemon and satay paste. I looked in vain for the torch ginger flower but didn’t find any – maybe because I was looking for something that resembled a lily! (I later googled it and realized that Torch Ginger Flowers are a key ingredient in Nonya cusine to mask the strong smell of fish. The tiny red ginger bud is thinly shredded to release a floral, grassy fragrance with citrus notes and a hint of pepper).
Dessert. It must be had. Especially because I know what their talented pastry chef is capable of creating. The Mango Panacotta is the star – beautifully plated Mango Panacotta (that clears the wobble test), with tapioca pearls, Passion Fruit, Raspberry Meringue & Mango Chilli Cilantro Salsa. A pity really, because they didn’t have it the last time I visited with a camera and hence I cannot offer you any voyeuristic pleasure.
The Warm Fig and Candied Ginger Pudding sounded all Asian and comforting at the same time, but was the least favorite. If anyone has tried Rava Prasad during puja, you will understand our reluctance to give it its due. Luckily there’s always a Lemon Tart to tantalize your taste buds and this one is bang on. Lemon Curd layered with a light lemon mousse, almond cake, Orange Mascarpone & Praline Crumbs – it tastes as pretty as it reads.
The drinks menu at Fatty covers a good ten pages, so your need for a tipple is taken care of as well. Just remind the waiter to make you a strong cocktail, because frankly, it costs the same for a light one! (P.S. That’s how they roll. #True Story 2). I just order a Gin and Tonic and pretty it up with a wedge of lemon these days. Or I get a pot of Lapsang Souchong and proceed to act all dainty whilst I’ve just burnt my mouth with the hot tea. #True Story 3.
Fatty does most of us a favor and
bans disallows kids in the evenings. And they are crazy booked on all days for lunch and dinner – so call in advance for a reservation and pray that the kitty gang hasn’t usurped the best seats in the house. Unless of course, you’re part of the kitty gang and I just upset you. Oops.
THE FATTY BAO – ASIAN GASTRO BAR
610, 3rd Floor, 12th Main,
Off 80 feet Road,
Bangalore – 560008.
Ph: +91 80 44114499
Timings: Lunch 12:00 – 3:30 PM and Dinner 7:00 – 11:30 PM
Cost: Rs.2800/-++ for a meal for two, including one drink