Despite restaurants opening in Chicago at the rate of a cheetah chasing a gazelle, not many are unique enough to really wow me. Sure, I'll be content and even excited about a meal at a new spot, but more often than not, foods just tend to blur together from menu to menu. This is not the case at Fat Rice, a tiny restaurant with bold enough flavors and a distinct enough concept to set it worlds apart.
Specializing in the old-world cuisines of Southeast Asia, Fat Rice features an enlightening and unique menu that feels more like a food safari than dinner. I recognized most of the ingredients on the menu, but not in the ways they were presented. I love peanuts, but have never experienced them quite like those umami-packed pickled peanuts. I love potstickers, but I've never seen them cooked in a thin crepe-like batter, which forms a cracker-y crust. And of course, I love noodles in any and all forms (the chewier the better), and the rolled bundles of thick chee cheong fun were revelatory, with a texture akin to noodle marshmallows.
Dessert was perhaps the wildest of all. What our server described as a kind of banana pudding turned out to be a tropical trifle of guava, sweet cream, bananas, and cookie crumbs, packed with more flavor than I could imagine fitting in such a stocky glass. Then there's the rice crisp, which is basically a "Fat Rice Krispie Treat," made with nori, sesame, and pork floss, served with a side of warm caramel sauce for dipping. It's not every day you chew a Rice Krispie treat with threads of dried pork skin and torn shards of seaweed. But against all my presumptions, the rice crisp was my favorite dish of the night, amidst of plethora of other show-stoppers.
Fat Rice: defying expectations and creating experiences for all.