Restaurant Review: The Fatty Bao, Bandra
Eating at The Fatty Bao, Bandra’s new East-Asian restaurant, last week, we got a sense of what it’s like to participate in a food race. When we arrived at the restaurant in time for our 7.30pm reservation, the firm front desk manager told us – it sounded rather like an ultimatum – that we’d have to vacate in an hour. Since its launch last month, the first Mumbai outpost of the popular establishment from Bangalore has been getting booked up a week in advance. To optimise the demand, they dole out hourly dinner slots.
They were polite enough not to whisk away our brimming bowls of ramen when we exceeded the stipulated hour, but many members of staff checked the progress of our meal much too often. This was unwarranted, because they insist on a reservation. It’s a shame because as anime enthusiasts we wanted to dwell a while longer on the wonderfully whimsical details in the decor. It felt like we were dining on the sets of an animation film – the restaurant is replete with rainbow pops of colour, illustrated pandas, verdant hand-painted landscapes and lacquered toy-like tableware.
The bar at this Asian funhouse got crowded as early as 7.30pm. However our tipples were not worth queuing up for. The Fatty Sour (Rs400) was a frothy, pink, cough syrup-like rendition of the whisky sour that was ruined by raspberry juice. The Beach Blonde (Rs400) was an equally unpalatable concoction of jaggery blended with gin, coconut water, lemon grass, lime juice and green chilli. These cocktails were sharp contrasts to those of next door neighbour Monkey Bar, which is under the same management and serves stellar libations.
The drinks were all but forgotten once we began eating. Unlike the glut of new South-East Asian restaurants that have predictable menus focused on stir-fries, woks and curries, The Fatty Bao caters more novel nosh in the form of small plates, bao sandwiches and ramen. The easy to pop Brie Tempura (Rs325) were triangles of batter-fried Brie polished with sweet and tart plum sauce. We were pleasantly surprised by The Fatty Oysters (Rs445), which weren’t the raw, saline, slurp-able variety. Here they cook the oysters and jazz them up with soy butter, chorizo and ponzu sauce, all fine bedfellows to the briny bivalve. To our delight, pork is in ample supply on their menu. The Fatty Bao PB & J (Rs525) had pliant pork belly (the PB in this case) lacquered with a sweet and savoury mustard miso jam (the J).
The Fatty Bao is of course famous for its baos, which are presented as sandwiches. We sampled our first bao sandwich on a recent trip to The Fatty Bao’s Bangalore flagship, and can report that in Mumbai they’ve maintained the same fluffy consistency of the mantou they’re known for there. Their outstanding char siu (Rs345) was a pillowy package of shimmering pork belly sweetened with hoisin sauce and green apple kimchi. Vegetarians will find a worthy equivalent in the fried eggplant bao (Rs250, they serve two in a portion). Stuffed with miso-marinated eggplant spiced with Sriracha, it was more savoury than sweet unlike the pork bun.
Ramen is a rare sighting on menus here, and The Fatty Bao has attempted to please every ramen craving palate with a comprehensive list that also includes mushroom, lamb and seafood iterations of the noodle broth. Their pork-laden chashu ramen comes highly recommended by the staff and regulars. For the sake of variety however, we opted for the Spicy Red Chicken Ramen (Rs395), a regally portioned bowl of noodles dunked in a sinus-clearing red chilli bath scented with lemongrass. Though decently flavoured, the broth was less glorious than a bowl of good pork ramen would’ve been. If you’re seeking comfort over novelty, get the veggie loaded lotus root red Thai curry (Rs345), which was pretty standard as far as Thai curries go.
The menu lists six desserts and notably none contain coconut or the ubiquitous honeyed noodles offered at most South-East Asian restaurants. The peanut butter caramel (Rs265) was a textureless square of peanut butter ganache, caramel mousse and chocolate sponge. It was smeared with miso that matched oddly with the remaining ingredients. Much better is The Fatty Hill (Rs265), a tapering mound of chilled chocolate cream concealing a mint cream core – like an After Eight chocolate sculpted to look like a Hershey’s Kiss.
Get: The Fatty Bao PB & J (Rs525); The Fatty Oysters (Rs445); char siu bao (Rs345); fried eggplant bao (Rs250).
Skip: The Fatty Sour (Rs400); Beach Blonde (Rs400); the peanut butter caramel (Rs265).
Prices exclude taxes.
The Fatty Bao, Ground Floor, Summerville, junction of 14th Road and 13th Road, next to Monkey Bar, same lane as KFC, off Linking Road, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2600 5220. Open daily, from noon to 3.30pm and from 7pm to 1am. Get directions here.