The space is dark. The waiters wear no discernable uniforms. The restaurant smells like fish sauce. And diners eat hackleback caviar with six-packs of Tecate beer.
Is this what happens when a Brooklyn restaurant comes to the West Village?
Welcome to Fatty ‘Cue, where half bottles of Tito’s Handmade Vodka go for $65 -- not a bad deal. Chef-owner Zak Pelaccio deserves credit for ignoring the standard rules of revelry.
Typically, restaurants might pair your food with reasonably priced wine or cocktails, while nightclubs fill your empty stomachs with $30 bottles of Grey Goose marked up to $400.
The new ‘Cue splits the difference with affordable, Thai-style bottle service.
Our 375 ml of Cabo Wabo Blanco tequila (about 12 shots) was $75. The waiter brings empty glasses, strawberry Indonesian peppercorn soda and a bucket of ice. You do the rest.
The vegetal overtones of the Cabo match the bitterness of a kale salad ($12). The smooth booze gives you the liquid courage to order a garlicky, fermented pork sausage, with a poached egg to stare back at you ($13).
Manhattan’s ‘Cue is tastier, tamer and marginally more mature than the Brooklyn first-born, which was plagued by blubbery meats upon opening last year.
None of that infects Carmine Street. Fatty brisket falls apart, accordion style, when picked up -- the sign of proper rendering. Heritage pork ribs, the size of Shaquille O’Neal’s forearms, boast pink smoke rings and a salty, crusty exterior.
A bowl of clams ($23) sports a sublime level of balance, a tightrope walk of sour yuzu, fragrant curry, spicy chilis and fatty bacon.
That’s your signature Pelaccio dish here, the work of an Original Gangster who takes America’s low, slow, oak smoke cookery and mixes it all up with the prickly, puckery, fermented flavors of Southeast Asia.
Order blood pudding. Fatty ‘Cue takes the name literally, turning the standard sausage into a carnivorous jar of meat custard, the iron tang softened by pillowy farro. Compliment the creamy treat with a Chupacabra ($12): tequila cut with watermelon, lime and chilis.
Pelaccio relegates all the wines to the back of the menu. Cocktails are the right call.
Smart diners begin their meals with Naked Cowboy oysters. They’re perfect -- no sand, no bits of shell, no popped bellies. A bottle of fishy sangrita subs for Tabasco.
Culinary historians will recall that Fatty ‘Cue isn’t Pelaccio’s first attempt to strike gold at 50 Carmine. He used to call this place Cabrito, Spanish for young goat. The bearded chef does well with the ornery animal (the world’s most consumed meat); buttermilk pappardelle with smoked kid ragu ($24) wouldn’t be out of place at one of the city’s better Italian restaurants.
Lamb shoulder ($23), deeply perfumed by the animal’s natural musk, gets its counterpoint by a tangy goat milk yogurt.
Watch out for smoke in the wrong places. Oak gives tomato curry a slight chemical tang (order the dish anyway for the great tripe). Stay away from the pricey rabbit; the bony, tough creature suffers from a severe lack of seasoning.
If you ran over a nice seabass with a Wile E. Coyote Acme steamroller, it would look like a turbot. It’s an ugly fish. That’s why chefs don’t often serve them whole.
Pelaccio is the outlier, bringing the hideously delicious creature to your table in all its moist, bony glory ($39). Dip it in the salsa verde, a tart condiment that’s served with a half-pound of deep fried bacon ($19). (We assume that if you’re dining at Fatty ‘Cue, you’re ordering the bacon.)
End with gooey pandan cake with kaffir milk jam, an odd dish with some very familiar flavors: It tastes like a bowl of chewy Froot Loops -- a New York original indeed. So finish your tequila and have another round.
The Bloomberg Questions
Price: Shared plates from $10-$40.
Sound Level: Can get loud, around 80 decibels.
Date Place: If your date can drink like a rock star.
Inside Tip: Booze bottle service is the right call.
Special feature: Duck laab salad ($24) isn’t nearly as
spicy as the painfully hot version at Kin Shop.
Will I be back? Yes.
Fatty ‘Cue is at 50 Carmine St., near Bedford. Information: +1-212-929-5050 or http://www.fattycue.com/.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience. *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair.
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels):
51 to 55: Quiet enough to converse sotto voce. 56 to 60: Speak up, please. 61 to 65: Lean in if you want to hear your date. 66 to 70: You’re reading one in if you want to hear your date. 66 to 70: You’re reading one another’s lips. 71 to 75: Heads turn because you’re yelling. 76 to 85: Ear-splitting din. 76 to 85: Ear-splitting din.
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)