Since the Fatty Bao restaurant opened in Delhi a little more than three years ago, I have wanted to go there for a meal. But as luck would have it, it just quite didn’t happen. In fact, I had been to the Sangam courtyard mall in RK Puram, quite a few times and visited a few of the restaurants there but the Fatty Bao plan seemed to be jinxed. Until last week, that is.
Yes, it is an interesting name: The Fatty Bao. A lot of the people who love the place don’t seem to know much about the name or even why it’s still such a trendy place. They go there just for the food and really, that is the only reason that one should go to eat anywhere. But I’m among those who want the whole thing: the food, the ambience, the service, the decor, the comfort zone…well, just about everything. And even more than that, a place has to pique the interest in such a way that eating out is not a boring experience, else I’m good in my pyjamas and ordering out.
As for the hype about the place, it couldn’t have been any other way: consider the unique name Fatty Bao, then the three men who are involved in it: restaurateur AD Singh of Olive fame, celebrated chef Manu Chandra also associated with Olive, Monkey Bar, Toast and Tonic and finally hospitality operations expert Chetan Rampal. That makes it a winner, alright.
Now before we start imagining that the food served here is probably ‘fatty,’ let me set the record straight. When you have a white, soft, fluffy or fatty, steamed circular ‘roti type’ invention stuffed with various different veg and non-veg fillings, as your signature dish; it makes sense to call it the Fatty Bao (a Chinese or Japanese or Taiwanese steamed bread). There are so many versions to choose from: chicken, fried fish, eggs or stewed meats, vegetarian, and even sweet versions with fruits or jams.
Originally called the Gua Bao, it was popularised in New York City by Chef-visionary David Chang, who teamed the Gua Bao with hoisin sauce and stuffed with pork belly, cucumbers and scallions at Ssam Bar in the East Village. It was a hit. Some years down the line, in the Lower East Side, brothers Evan and Eddie Huang opened a Baohaus, based on their Taiwanese culinary heritage and from a simple dish eaten in Asia, the Bao then attained cult status. Then slowly, it lost the Gua in its name and began to be called Bao, as we know it today.
Armed with this bit of interesting trivia, we landed at the restaurant that was totally full, at this point. We were lucky we had a reservation beforehand as the Manipuri hostess ushered us in with a smile, accommodating our need for a corner table with two noisy kids in tow. The decor is colourful, reminiscent of a busy Asian street with no fuss furniture that was very colourful too and images of a giant Panda adorned the walls with very aesthetically arranged lighting. It had a happy buzz that we liked immediately.
The menu is Asian fusion at its best containing the Baos of course: open Baos and closed Baos with a variety of fillings, Sushi rolls, Nigiri, Dimsums, Gyoza, Soups, Salads, Ramen, Curries, Rice and Noodles, seafood like Fatty Oysters, Miso Cod, Salmon Carpaccio, truffles and an interesting selection of desserts and cocktails too. For an Asian food lover like me, it was heaven.
With a little help from the friendly young man who served us, we ordered the open-faced Teriyaki glazed chicken bao (pan seared chicken with pickled cucumber and shichimi), the Char Siu (slow cooked pork belly, green apple kimchi, hoisin sauce, sesame oil and scallions), the prawn tempura Sushi rolls, the Chiang Mai duck (Thai duck curry with peanut, eggplant, sweet potato, apple and cauliflower) along with some classic spicy crab fried rice with egg white and the bacon and asparagus fried rice. Accompaniments are fish chips, onion fries, peanut sauce and peanuts.
The choice of desserts is also unique and you must try the Egg (soft boiled egg in a shell with coconut pannacotta, passionfruit and mango yolk) or the Fatty Hill (a chocolate pyramid with mint custard centre, almond praline, rice crispies and vanilla bean ice cream), to name a few. Not only was the food delicious, it was also a feast for the eyes as it scored ten on ten for presentation
The bar is among the few good ones in the city that rustles up excellent cocktails; again the ‘interesting’ factor at work here with Sesame Street, Popcorn Sour or Yoko Oh No. They also have a green outdoor seating area that’s welcome in the winter season but good enough for a smoke in solace, in this torrid summer, after a full meal.
Would I go there again? Yes, I would. It’s not every day that you find restaurants worth eating at and writing about.
FATTY BAO — SANGAM COURTYARD, RK PURAM, DELHI