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Lounge Review | The Fatty Bao

LiveMint logoLiveMint 06-06-2014 Sumana Mukherjee

Close to 10 years after he helped launch Olive Beach, Bangalore, a Manu Chandra venture has managed to create an enviable buzz even before the first signage goes up. The bar on all fronts is set commensurately high and, for the most part, the chef-entrepreneur’s past projects have lived up to the hype. Chandra’s biggest setback, perhaps, was the untimely closure of LikeThatOnly (LTO), a funky space serving a cross-section of Asian food, barely two years into operations. Since then, the cognoscenti have been talking about an LTO revival. Instead, we’ve got The Fatty Bao (TFB), an “Asian gastro-bar” which had an uncharacteristically low-key opening earlier this week.

The good stuff

Brie TempuraThe food, no contest. With Innovative Asian as the theme, TFB serves up quirky, intelligent and always palatable takes on a wide range of dishes from regions east of India. If LTO shook up the cocktail crowd with fragrant smoke in jars and drinks in lotas, the TFB signatures depend purely on flavours, so well mixed as to leave even the hardened drinker guessing about the base alcohol.

The standouts at the rooftop bar: the Fatty Sour (whisky with fresh raspberries, lime and sugar), the Bora Bora (vodka, gin, coconut water with passion fruit and green apple), and the Double Jade (gin, kiwi, khus and kaffir lime, from which they obligingly removed the khus for me). A Caipiroska came superbly mixed, with just the right balance of sweet and sour. Alongside, we sampled some outstanding starters and small plates.

Favourites: the cream cheese and asparagus sushi roll with a delicious tempura crunch layer, the Salmon Carpaccio, the Char Siu Bao (barbequed pork belly with a green apple kimchi) and the Braised Beef Cheeks Bao (fall-apart meat, dressed with pickled veggies), the fillings artfully tucked into flat, palm-sized, steamed breads. And if one thinks that all oysters need is a squeeze of lime, the Fatty Oysters—oomphy Kochi oysters with chorizo and a citrusy ponzu—will force a rethink.

It was a hard choice deciding between more small plates or going for the mains, but the presence of seven ramens helped us move on. The Chasu Ramen was pork poetry in a bowl, super-rich pork broth with braised pork belly (that still retained some crispness), bacon and marinated soft-boiled eggs. After we were done fighting for the oozy yolks, we turned to the in-shell jumbo prawns with pak choi and oyster sauce, the succulence of the meat playing off the complex seasonings.

On our second visit, we also tried the Braised Beef Jungle Curry, furiously hot for my palate, but so light and full of punch, I added just a spoonful to a heap of Sticky Jasmine Rice in order not to miss it altogether. The Asparagus and Bacon Fried Rice, meanwhile, is pure comfort food.

How could dessert live up to such a meal, each element of which had been so distinct, so masterfully crafted? But that was before the Poached Apples came, with a side of Cinnamon Gelato. Taste, texture, balance all come together in this little helping of perfection and, in my book, it overshadows the cutesy Donatsu (a chilli-chocolate ganache-filled doughnut) and the mango pannacotta.

Like the food, the décor—a major talking point at LTO—is less self-conscious and more confident, exuberantly juxtaposing Japanese ningyo doll-hair with Chinese pandas, anemone-like ceiling lamps and Tangram cats over two levels. A happy, secure space, where good things happen.

The not-so-good

Soup-filled dumplings are always tricky to pull off and the Spicy Chicken and Celery Dimsum was a bit of a mess, leaking broth in its bamboo container. A couple of us also found the ramen base to be a bit too fatty.

Talk plastic

A meal for two, with two drinks, four small plates, two main courses and two desserts, cost around `3,000, plus taxes.

The Fatty Bao, Third floor, 601, 12th Main, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar, Bangalore-560038. For reservations, call 44114499.

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