courtesy of the sun times
Fat Rice is an innovative little Avondale hot spot serving up Macanese food, a mutt of exotic flavors commingling in Euro-Asian comfort foods.
Fat Rice has a charming outdoor waiting area – a necessity since you are sure to spend plenty of time out there. The inside is laden with steely-gray wood panels dotted with pops of color. The bar wraps around the open kitchen under low hanging lights.
The service is really fantastic. Everyone on the waitstaff is attentive and informative, and Chef Abraham Conlon wanders about the dining room to welcome you and answer any of your questions. The warm, neighborhood-vibe provides a lively and engaging dining experience.
We began with a refreshing rosé out of Portugal, Lagoalva Espirito 2012. It was light and aromatic with a heavy strawberry note that melted into the creamy mouthfeel before disappearing with a crisp, clean finish. The house white was out of portugal, incredibly sweet and rounded like a Sauternes. We finished with the Koehler-Ruprecht Riesling Halbtrocken 2011 out of Pfalz, Germany. It had medium dryness with a bold, fruity body and a brightness that was cleansing amongst the myriad of spices.
While we poured over the menu, we snacked on some housemade pickles. The braised fava beans were really meaty and paired with salty bits of salami. The sweet and sour eggplant was probably my favorite, served with crispy little noodles and laden with a sweet, umami loaded oil. The mixed sichuan pickles were also yummy, especially the little mouse melons. They were tiny, but explosive in cucumber flavor. We also enjoyed a braised carrot and peanut dish for the amuse-bouche, a salty little treat.
The first appetizer that reached our table was the linguiça, a portuguese country sausage served with chili cabbage, ginger and olives. The salami was super oily but rich and complex. The olives were awesome!
The balcalhau, a smooth salt cod spread with olives, chili and mint, was incredible. It wasn’t fishy, but rather fresh, citrusy and almost floral. The consistency was oily and smooth like a pureed hummus. It was served with a couple fluffy slices of Portuguese bread.
Our final appetizer was the jamón de jabugo de bellota. Go big or go home right? This plate came with a few thin slices of the best iberian ham the world has to offer, fresh fruit, garlic almonds and sprouts. The ham was impeccable: sweet, nutty and almost creamy like a ripened wedge of Manchego. The melon and almonds functioned as perfect accoutrements, almost adding a smokey, late-summer-at-camp quality.
The pot stickers were much more fun than we expected. Each little pocket was filled with pork, shrimp, and dill. They were fanned in a circle under a halo of crust, served alongside a black vinegar dipping sauce and a hot sauce that was spiked with ghost peppers, which I was obsessed with. It was almost like a gourmet spin off of taco bell’s fire sauce. The pot sticker dough was amazingly tender and almost a little sweet.
Our first entree was the incredible curried oxtail, with chinese eggplant, steamed buns, tofu puffs and shiitake mushrooms. This dish was superbly addicting. The oxtail was crazy tender, almost dripping off the bone. The eggplant may as well have been coated in caramel, it was so sweet. The tofu puffs were really awesome too. They were like croutons with a creamy interior. The steamed buns, which felt just as comforting as crescent rolls at your thanksgiving table, seemed to bow down to the creamy curry as it sopped it up. Unfortunately, there was hardly any meat on the oxtail and the price was too steep for what you actually got. It was so delicious though.
The piri piri chicken was a crunchy pleasure: half of a char-grilled bird swimming in a creamy and spicy “african” tomato sauce with grilled potato, peanuts and awesome little gherkins. Like most of the dishes, this plate was slightly sweet with a lovely floral quality. Another winner, and definitely the best value of the night.
The fat rice was everything you want it to be: jasmine rice laced with sofrito, chinese sausage, salted duck, portuguese chicken thighs, char sui pork, linguiça sausage, fatty prawns, clams, tea eggs, croutons, pickles and sauces. No wonder they call this dish Arroz Gordo, meaning “substantial rice.” This shit is fat. It’s kind of like paella on the blue stuff (’tis the season, bitches). Sweet, savory and heavily spiced with nutmeg and raisins aplenty. Amazing.
The worst plate of the night was the bland bredo raba-raba: “mixed yard-weeds,” green papaya, mushroom, lily blossom and balichao. I was totally impressed by the ingredients and had to try it, but it fell very flat. Oh well, at least it was pretty.
For dessert, we had a melon soup, with basil seeds, purple yam dumplings, coconut and mint. It was a little strange, but very refreshing after the meal. The dumplings were my favorite part, but the soup itself had this floral element that was really very pretty on the palate. I was more drawn to the pineapple upside down cake, with sweet cream, licorice plum and cinnamon taro Pi. It was super spicy with a thick caramel flavor, but it wasn’t too heavy.
Fat Rice is everything you want it to be: a hip, you-have-to-go-here rep, exotic, delicious cross-cultural cuisine and a casual, engaging environment. The price, however, is rather steep considering the portions, but you don’t come to this place to save money. It was an excellent meal, but I’m happy I wasn’t picking up the check. Thanks dad!