(L to R) Fatty Crew creative genius Zakary Pelaccio, the Crew executive chef Corwin Kave and Fatty Crab St. John Chef de Cuisine Seann Hogan outside the new restaurant.
How do juicy mini pork and beef sliders with a tangy green chili aioli sound? Does house-made sausage with bright pickled radish and a punch of cilantro sound enticing?
If so, head right over to the newest restaurant to spice up Love City’s foodie scene. After months of renovations to the old Tage location, designed by barefoot architect, Fatty Crab opened its doors for business on Thursday night, February 10.
With a new wrap-around bar, bright red bankettes, poured concrete tables and a light wood ceiling, Fatty Crab looks as exciting as its fare promises to be. And with three New York City-area locations under their belt, the team behind the restaurant ensures it will be no flash in the pan.
The “Fatty Crew,” as the core team terms themselves, oversees a veritable funky South East Asian, Malaysian-inspired food empire in the Big Apple. From its first West Village location, the team opened an Upper East Side outpost and a Williamsburg, Brooklyn, barbecue off-shoot.
It was the Fatty Crew’s ties to wine importer and distributor Michael Skurnik, who has a home on St. John, which landed the bunch on Love City’s shores.
“We’ve been buying wine from Michael for years and he has a house on St. John,” said Zakary Pelaccio, a Fatty Crew partner and the group’s creative genius. “He said, ‘I have to have a Fatty Crab on St. John.’ He told us to come down and hang out and check it out.”
After a brief stay, the Fatty Crew fell in love with the island and decided to give it a go. While the template for the distinct Fatty aesthetic — think deep red and bright yellow, spicy and sour, tangy and sweet — is a common thread for all of the group’s restaurants, no two are the same, explained Pelaccio, who helms the Crew along with partner Rick Camac.
“What we do is unique to each place,” he said. “It’s not cookie-cutter. We have to be responsive to our environment.”
That translates to mackerel crudo with coconut habanero vinaigrette, coconut poached Mahi Mahi with pineapple, locally-grown basil and fried shallots and seared kingfish with sunflower sprouts, rib tips and palm sugar.
While embracing local produce and protein, Fatty Crab’s stamp on those ingredient ensure it will never be confused with any other St. John eatery.
“There is no one doing what we do here and no one does what we do in New York,” said Pelaccio.
The menu includes snacks, rice dishes, Fatty specialties, ‘cue from their own smoker in back and sides. The vibe is more Korean BBQ than elegant entrees, with multiple dishes intended to be served and shared, explained Pelaccio.
“It’s kind of Asian style that way with dishes coming out when they are ready and everyone sharing,” he said. “You get to have a little sample of everything. The idea is a casual style of eating with the focus on the quality of the product and technique.”
Don’t be fooled by the intentional casual vibe at Fatty Crab, what is coming out of the kitchen requires serious skill.
“We’re celebrating good food in a fun environment,” said Pelaccio. “But there is a real sophistication required to make these dishes. You need a skill set that not many people have.”
Chef de Cuisine Seann Hogan is the man with that skill set in the Fatty Crab St. John kitchen and Fatty Crew executive chef Corwin Kave is the talent who collaborates on all the menus.
The excitement at Fatty Crab doesn’t stop at the kitchen either. Fatty Crew beverage director Adam Schuman has tweaked a drink menu for the St. John restaurant from one originally designed for the Fatty empire by renowned mixologist and drink historian David Wondrich.
While some of Wondrich’s genius concoctions are not to be messed with — like the Chupacabra made with tequila, chili infused Domaine de Canton, fresh watermelon juice, kaffir and lime —Schuman has put his own stamp on the Fatty Crew’s latest bar menu.
“David’s drinks stand the test of time but I felt that I had something to contribute,” he said. “I like playful interpretations of classic drinks. I’d say playful, local and artisanal.”
While creating enticing libations from hand-crafted syrups, smoked colas and more, one thing Schuman is not is pretentious.
“It’s really just all about fun,” he said.
So be sure to wash down the Fatty Specialty watermelon pickle and crispy pork — marinated pork belly, pressed, cubed and fried and served up with pickled watermelon rind and watermelon flesh — with the Love City, made with cucumber, Thai basil, toasted cardamom with either gin or vodka, and muddled with fresh lemon juice strained and served over ice in a high ball and finished with a splash of ginger beer.
The Fatty Crew’s wine connections also ensure diners will be sipping on vintages not to be found elsewhere on the island.
Fatty Crab is located across from Winston Wells ballfield in Cruz Bay and open Wednesday through Sunday with snacks available from 3 p.m. and the full menu available from 5 p.m. For more information or reservations call 775-9951.