If you run with a foodie crowd – or are a foodie yourself – you probably already have Fat Rice in Logan Square on your radar. First, there was the Bon Appetit article naming it a Best New Restaurant in America. Then, the countless social media images of their glorious, signature Arroz Gordo (translation: Fat Rice, you gringos). And, of course, the endless lines out the door that we’ve grown familiar seeing while passing by (clearly to somewhere far less cool).
It’s hot. Ghost pepper hot.
This past weekend I popped in for the Sunday-only Fat Rice brunch to finally find out why for myself.
Looking at the menu conjured an immediate question. Uh, what kind of food is this? Clearly there is Chinese influence, but I’m also picking up Latin and Indian flavors. Where am I?
Chef Abraham Conlon took that as an opportune time to pop a quiz on me. “So, what do you think it is?” he prods. I first run through what it’s not before finally throwing Viet-India-Chinese fusion his way and he just laughs a big, warm laugh.
“Not quite, it’s Macanese.”
But, of course, Macanese! That was going to be my next guess.
I’ve heard of Macau, the tiny peninsula about an hour ferry ride from Hong Kong, but had never had exposure to much of its cuisine or culture. Until now. Steeped in an interesting amalgamation of cultures that span from Portugal to India (told you!) and China, Macanese food has a familiar Asian vibe, but a bold flair entirely its own. You know, like comfort food. With a karate chop to the face.
While sipping on refreshing, house-made, spicy grapefruit sodas (these need a gin accompaniment, STAT) my dining companion and I started making some swift decisions and ordered the things that called to us immediately. Which was pretty much an assortment of everything. Gluttony, for the win, every time.
The first round of dishes produced two delicious, flavorful plates. Minchi croquettes (top) and boiled pork & ginger dumplings (bottom).
Minchi is present in several places on the Fat Rice brunch menu, and after tasting the croquettes I quickly saw why. The savory combo of spiced, minced beef and pork lends itself perfectly to being fried up and topped with a tangy plum sauce. Speaking of the sauce, I love getting saucy… a little extra on the side to bathe in would have kicked this dish up to uber top notch for me.
The boiled dumplings were amazing, and even more so once you got down in the beautifully salty soy and sichuan garlic oil underneath. Swoonworthy stuff. I loved the smooth, softness of the dumplings. The way they just stand on their own in homemade simplicity is quite impressive… no pan fry, no oily crunch, just the dumpling. It really feels like a dish you might have in a Macanese home. If you can find one.
Next up we went with the minchi hash, cuz who can pass up more minchi? This gorgeous stir-fried dish comes with a hefty hand of the minchi meat, coconut rice, sautéed greens and a sunny side up egg that provides more yolky glory than one can almost handle.
Break the egg. Stir everything together. It’s total mushy perfection.
I found myself craving a little bit of heat with the dish and when requesting sriracha, the Fat Rice folks upped the ante and brought me something WAY better: house-made Ghost Pepper sauce.
Insert wide-eyed face here.
It’s killer! Tangy, garlicky, vinegary, spicy… everything a well-rounded, multi-note sauce should be. They should bottle the stuff. Oh, wait. They did. My biggest misstep? Not buying one to take home.
You didn’t think we’d skip dessert, did you? Fat Rice has the perfect sweet bite to end your meal on an utter high. These delicate pastel de nata (custard pastries) are filled with sweet egg custard, love and secrets. That’s Fat Rice’s description, not mine, but wholly accurate. They’re also just enough of a sugared treat without going overboard. I love a “not too sweet” bite to end the meal on, and the pastel nails it.
Brunch perfection realized. Dumplings and rice are the new bacon and pancakes. Get on it!
Fat Rice | 2957 West Diversey Avenue | Chicago | IL | 60647 |