Every once in a while, you come across a dish that makes you want to sing hallelujah. When you find two – or, praise the Lord – even three such dishes on a single menu, singing hallelujah all by yourself simply won’t cut it; you need to invite the whole choir.
As a regular to The Fatty Bao in Indiranagar, I was delighted to be able to select it as my restaurant of choice for a sneak preview of its Citibank Restaurant Week India menu. I was even more delighted to find that two of my three “hallelujah” dishes are being showcased during the event – a fact that is definitely deserving of an invitation to the choir!
First, the basics. Reservations for the tenth edition of Citibank Restaurant Week India (RWI) have already begun.This year, Zomato is also in on the RWI act, with a feature that lets you browse and locate participating restaurants from your phone. Between April 17 and April 26, 2015, thirty-one Bangalore restaurants will each offer diners a three-course prix fixe menu at Rs. 900 plus taxes (lunch) or Rs. 1000 plus taxes (dinner) per head. For an additional cost of Rs. 200 per head, you can choose a restaurant’s signature dish as one of your meal courses. What you cannot do is make selections from the regular à la carte menu – you must stick to the selection of items showcased on the RWI menu.
And now, with the news-you-can-use factor out of the way, it’s time to dish (no pun intended) on The Fatty Bao.
Perched above Monkey Bar on Indiranagar’s 12th Main, and run by the same team, The Fatty Bao pays homage to Asian avant garde cuisine.
If I were to pick one word to define this restaurant, it’d be “quirky”. A Japanese ningyo doll personifies the space, and her dango hair-bun (named after the eponymous Japanese sweet dumplings on skewers) is used as a motif in unexpected places – light shades, for instance.
Bright vivid Psychedelic-yet-somehow-pleasing colors provide a backdrop on which anthropomorphized Chinese pandas pose and cavort. With its eclectic mix of the fantastical and the amusing, The Fatty Bao – affectionately referred to by regulars as “Fatty” – is a happy, vibrant trippy space. Upstairs, a terrace bar offers a pleasant, if somewhat less fanciful, al fresco dining option (“less fanciful” is relative: check out the insect-wing tables.) Service at Fatty has, in my experience, always been warm and welcoming. Although communication and menu knowledge can sometimes be spotty, staff seems to take genuine delight in pleasing customers.
Hallelujah Dish #1 at Fatty, billed as an RWI Signature dish, is the steamed baby scallops with fujiko butter in chili, ginger, garlic and soy sauce. I have no idea who Fujiko is (the doll maybe?), and I suspect that the phrase “fujiko butter” has been used to cock a snook at a certain type of pretentious diner who is almost certain to question the provenance of the fujiko. Or perhaps fujiko is an ingredient I am as yet unaware of (in which case, apologies – and someone enlighten me please?) Regardless, this dish is a standout. The first time I tried it, the sauce was a perfectly balanced buttery-tangy delight, and the glistening baby scallops were cooked just right, their oceanic flavor adding a sweet brininess to the whole. On a subsequent occasion, however, I found the flavors not quite as bright (though still delectable.) I’m just being picky, though – this is worth springing an extra Rs.200 for, I promise.
Other appetizers to try during RWI: The Fatty Bao PB&J (crisped Pork Belly with mustard-miso Jam) is one of my favorite Fatty small plates – as much for its clever name as for its contrasting tastes and textures. Duck pizza (a small tortilla “pizza base” topped with spicy roast duck and plum sauce) comes a close second – we usually end up ordering both these dishes as appetizers, and they are usually Gone in 60 Seconds.
I was disappointed to find that my Hallelujah Dish #2, Fatty’s interpretation of a char siu bao, is not being showcased as part of the RWI menu. Eschewing the traditional bun-shape, this version serves up its pork filling in taco-shaped bao shells: sweet, fluffy bread meets toothsome spiced pork in every bite. While you can’t sample these as part of the RWI showcase, you can try either the fried eggplant or the chicken katsu baos. I haven’t tried these myself, but one thing I can say about Fatty is that pretty much anything you order will taste good.
Main courses at Fatty tend to favor the soupy. Ramen soups serve up interesting flavor and ingredient combinations – chicken katsu and coconut milk, for example, or bacon and eggs. The lamb tsukune ramen, available on the RWI menu, is a case in point. The broth pairs miso (an essentially Japanese flavor) with Korean gochujang. This unusual combination forms a robust, spicy, and fermented base for hearty lamb meatballs, sautéed spinach, sweet corn, and gooshy soft-boiled egg. Thumbs up.
Many (not all) of The Fatty Bao’s curries are coconut-based. Although they are tasty, they do tend to display a hint of the sticky glossiness I associate with the use of cornstarch as a thickening agent. Perhaps this is due to the use of tinned (as opposed to freshly squeezed) coconut milk, in which emulsifiers are often used to extend shelf life. That said, the duck rendang, served with rice and other accompaniments, was opulent, beautifully managing to show off the “dark-meat” duck flavor. The curry’s slightly sticky texture was a disappointment, though; although I realize that freshly squeezed coconut milk may not be practical in a restaurant kitchen, it certainly makes a huge difference to the finished dish.
In both cases, portion sizes are substantial.
The dessert selection brings us to Hallelujah Dish #3: pistachio and green tea chiffon cake with yuzu cream, vanilla sable and orange jelly.
I insist that you end your meal with this rhapsody-on-a-plate. A thin, light-as-air layer of chiffon cake encases a tangy, yuzu-flavored mousse, which in turn surrounds a cube of orange jelly. An inviting stick of buttery sable and a single, sugared rose petal rest atop this confection, making it even more impossible to resist. A word about yuzu: a tart citrus fruit with origins in China, the yuzu is thought to be a cross between kaffir lime and mandarin orange. Its inordinately high concentration of vitamin C has accorded it superfruit status, making it fruit du jour across the world. One more reason for you to try this dessert (though I dare say that all the sugar and cream negate the health benefits :P.)
By now, you’ll likely be hard pressed to eject yourself from your chair. No worries. As you close your eyes and contemplate the best way to get yourself from your table to the door, take a moment to send up an hallelujah, and a couple of hosannas for good measure.
The Fatty Bao
3rd Floor, 610,
12th Main, Indiranagar
Phone: 080 44114499