The Fat Crab is an unpretentious seafood bistro that is a valuable addition to the growing restaurant scene along Marine Drive and fills the need for a mid-range crab specialist in Colombo.
The Fat Crab calls itself a seafood bistro. Its menu
is not extensive, but is certainly exciting*. Options include some standard fare, but also more unusual appetizers like Fresh Bentota Oysters Shucked with Raspberry Vinegar (Rs 825), soups like Curried Prawn Bisque (Rs 625), mains like Mrs. Flogesteen’s Seafood Pie (Rs 980) and desserts like Grilled fresh Pineapple with Cinnamon & Vodka Ice Cream (Rs 475). These pleasures, we left undiscovered for another day to focus on the reason we had made this pilgrimage in the first place: crab.
Patrons seeking crab have three choices to make: size of crab (three options), preparation method (five options) and accompaniment (three options). The minimum order quantity serves two, and since there were six of us, we decided to share the Sri Lankan Murunga Leaf Crab Curry, Black Pepper Crab and Steaming Crab with dipping sauces, choosing the middle “large” crab option (approximately six inches across). As accompaniments, we chose to be traditional and basic: Crusty Kadé Paan with butter, Pol Sambol, Steamed rice and Dhal.
Along with four cokes and a couple of beers, the bill came to approximately Rs 3350 each. The quantities were enough to satisfy even the most acute of crab cravings.
The quality of the meal was excellent. After the versions at the former Sea Anglers’ Club in Trincomalee and the occasional Sunday lunch with family, this was one of the tastiest and most authentic Murunga Crab Curries we have ever had.
The crab was succulent and tender. Not overdone, the flesh was firm and fresh and the flavours were strong, but not overpowering, balanced well to allow the natural taste of the crab to come through the spices, chili and murunga flavours. The gravy was thick and generously infused with murunga leaves. Soaked up with the crusty bread, the fine two-step dhal and pol sambol, it was absolute heaven. The pepper crab as well, was excellent, and well balanced. The steaming crab option is perhaps for a more subtle palate that is averse to the stronger spice content of the other options. Still, the flesh was perfectly done and the choice of six varied dipping sauces meant you could tailor your taste experience.
Although the address is officially on Haig Road, it is on the corner with Marine Drive, facing the ocean, between Majestic City and Keells Super. It is above Don’s Café and on the same premises as Genghis, the Mongolian wok restaurant, from which menu you can also order.
It is an unassuming wooden structure, with soft lighting, tasteful décor and nice cutlery. It has tats to keep out the rain and is open to the sea breeze, with no fans or air-conditioning. Although at first we were concerned about the lack of fans, we did not find it uncomfortably hot, even in the middle of February. Also, the location is easily accessible and its proximity to the ocean adds to the experience of the seafood.
The service was professional, as can be expected from one of the Don Stanley’s group of restaurants, which this is. There was some minor confusion about appropriate quantities and crab sizes before ordering, but this was sorted out with the waiter without too much of a fuss. A couple of unfinished Cokes were cleared away while some of us were away from the table washing fingers, but again, this was a minor detraction from an otherwise pleasing experience.
While we are on the topic: the hand-washing sink is behind the bar, which is not an ideal location for it. One of our diners desperately wanted to wipe her nose as she had the spice drips, but she didn’t want to cover her face with crab. Easily accessible finger bowls or a dedicated sink would be an improvement.
They were not stingy with the accompaniments. They filled up the dhal bowl three times without hesitation or extra charge, which gets a big thumbs up from us.
I came away from the experience thinking: this place understands their crab. The official launch of the place is this Friday, after which they will extend their menu. Seafood fans should definitely go and explore!
*The management says that after Friday, 19th February, when they have their full launch, the menu will be extended to include more options.
“No fuss – Make a Mess.”