Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
Zak Pelaccio's fusion-barbecue was a welcomed addition to Williamsburg when Fatty 'Cue first opened on South 6th Street. But tending to renovations left the restaurant closed before it had a chance to hit its stride. Two months turned to six. Six to twelve. A Fatty 'Cue opened in the West Village, Pelaccio worked towards opening a restaurant upstate with his wife, and the Fatty Crew Hospitality Group partnered with Leah Cohen to open Pig and Khao. The Williamsburg location fell onto the back burner.
Then Anthony Masters started developing a new menu and Phil Ward from Death & Co. signed on to revamp the cocktails. Masters cooked at the Williamsburg location for six months prior to it closing in January 2012. So it was a homecoming of sorts when the doors reopened at 91 South 6th Street. They swung open April 9th to reveal a polished room and a completely new menu, replete with the fermented food stuffs, head-to-tail cooking, and strong Eastern embrace that defines Fatty 'Cue.
"You'll see a lot more snack items on the menu here," Masters says of the Williamsburg location. "There's going to be a higher check average in the West Village," he added. "Here, people usually come to have a drink and some snacks. That's what we're going for." So Masters has made those options plentiful. One of them is fermented sausage dumplings that he serves with chili oil. Fried Chicken Bao is another. It's a two or three-bite dish, but brining and marinating the chicken is a two-day process. There are pig ears too, and it takes two days before they end up in the pig ear salad. After they're braised, the ears get pressed and frozen overnight, to make it easier for Masters to slice them razor thin. Fatty 'Cue is not in a hurry.
"There are some holdovers from the menu we had before we closed for renovations," Masters said, "but a lot of new dishes have cycled in," he added. In Williamsburg, Masters' sweet-sour-spicy-smoky East-meets-West small plates are presented in three categories: Snacks, Vegetables, and Meat & Fish. With the exception of lamb ribs and pork ribs, nothing from the Williamsburg menu is available across the river. "I wanted dishes that were a little more rustic than the West Village," Masters explained, "yet still maintaining some sort of unique elegance, and understanding that if it tastes good it has to look good."
Thursday through Saturday, starting at midnight, some of Masters' dishes are offered at hacked prices on Fatty 'Cue's late-night menu. Bao and ribs are available there as individual portions, so you can order a lone pork rib or a single bao. But Masters will be changing the bao variations and the rest of the menu on a regular basis, a conscious decision that separates Fatty 'Cue past from present. "The menu is never going to be stagnant," he explained. "It's always going to be changing."
About the Author: Craig Cavallo is a Serious Eats intern with an addiction to New York City's food and drink. Learn more about his problem at digestny.com.