Fat Spoon is a Solid Option Out of the Gate
Most people will point to upscale cocktail bars, fancy pour over coffee shops, and hip gastro-pubs as the only proof you need that Downtown is experiencing a major resurgence. But for the Midtown Lunch crowd, nothing says DTLA hotness like the rise of the Asian fast casual lunch spot. Starry Kitchen (which, at 18 months old, could be considered the old Grandpa of the trend) hit the scene to huge fanfare last year, and it looks as if others have taken notice. Spice Table started their under $10 banh mi lunch menu four months ago, Flying Pig Cafe followed a few months later, and last week Fat Spoon got into the fray (not to be confused with Wood Spoon, the great Brazilian place on 9th & Main.)
Fat Spoon features a menu of Japanese curry and Italian pastas, a unlikely sounding combo- until you find out that Italian style pastas are huge in Japan. In some ways it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. But unlike Flying Pig, which seemed to stumble a bit out of the gate, Fat Spoon seems ready to dominate on week one.
I guess it shouldn’t be a big surprise that Fat Spoon was ready for the spotlight the minute they opened their doors. The place is a partnership between Michael Cardenas (owner of the Lazy Ox and Toronoko, both in Little Tokyo) and Hiroyuki Fujita (from Hamasaku and Sushi Roku), making the reasonable prices that much more exciting.
The menu is divided into curry, pasta, salad, and side dishes (with four desserts.) Nothing is over $12, and most things are under $10.
The pork cutlet curry ($10) will probably be one of the more popular things to order (especially when you discover it’s the only fried option!) The portion isn’t huge, but it’s flavorful enough and the quality of the meat is definitely better than most of the places in Little Tokyo. The curry itself is a nice consistency (not too thin, but not too sludgy) and has a simple flavor which is greatly improved by the pickles and garlic oil.
If you are one of those people that ignore table condiments at Asian restaurants, don’t make that mistake at Fat Spoon. I’m not sure if the pickled pearl onions or radishes are house made, but they sure taste like it. And the spicy oil with crunchy bits of garlic is a game changer on top of the curry. In some ways, this stuff made the dish, so don’t miss out. Does it make the whole thing better than Wako Donkasu? Maybe not. And if I was on the Westside I would still head to Sawtelle before making a trek Downtown. But for the area? It’s a real solid and tasty katsu curry.
As sad as I feel for people who don’t eat pork, I feel even sadder for them at Fat Spoon. The chicken option ($8.50) is not fried, coming instead as pulled dark meat chicken swimming in a lake of curry. It’s not bad, but part of what makes Japanese curry so great is the contrast of the thick curry with the crispy cutlet.
The beef curry ($9) is also not fried but an improvement over the chicken, with the simmered short ribs adding a great richness to the curry. It almost made me ok with having no crunch. Almost. There is also a vegetable curry for $8 (thanks, but no thanks) and a seafood curry featuring shrimp, calamari, scallops and clams that is too pricey for ML purposes ($12)
It’s tough to make an absoultely terrible katsu curry (even the bad ones are mildly enjoyable) but pasta? At a Japanese restaurant? The potential for this to be bad was huge.
Most of the pastas are straight up Italian making me especially excited to try the Tarako ($10), the only pasta on the menu even vaguely Japanese. Featuring salted cod roe, cream, dried seaweed, and shiso leaf it tasted exactly like I was hoping it would taste. And the best part? The spaghetti was not mushy at all. Very well cooked. The perfect Italian/Japanese hybrid, I was also super happy the cream was more like a dipping sauce for soba than the thick Olive Garden’ish cream sauces we’re used to. If anything it might be a bit too mild for most, so be sure to add the grated parmesan they give you. Like the curry condiments, it ends up giving the dish that extra bit of lift it needs
The bolognese was equally good, if not a bit un-exciting. A tasty meat sauce, with good flavors. What is there to complaint about? I’m guessing the carbonara ($9.50) the pescatore ($12) and shrimp with fresh basil ($9) are equally decent. Best pastas ever? Hardly. But for the price, this could be the best pasta deal Downtown.
I’ll leave the salads for another blogger (sorry, not my thing) and the side dishes will take the price out of the Midtown Lunch range. So, I’m not sure how Fat Spoon will fare as a sit down dinner place, with appetizers and salads and the whole shebang. And it might not warrant the trip across town that Lazy Ox does. And it’s not as unique or fun as Starry Kitchen. But as a one dish, quick service lunch spot in Little Tokyo it’s solid enough to be a great backup when the lines at Daikokuya are too long. That is, until it has lines of its own.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- I love Japanese curry! Glad to finally have a place in Little Tokyo that is high quality
- Italian pastas, with a Japanese edge? Sign me up!
- Same owner as Lazy Ox, but almost everything is under $10. How can it be bad?
- The condiments are sooooo good! Make sure to add them to everything
- That pasta with fish eggs is soooo good
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Nothing really blew me away.
- The katsu portion was a little on the small side.
- Definitely not as good as Wako. Maybe not even as good as Curry House.
- Pork is the only meat they cutlet up! That’s terrible.
- Why would I go to a Japanese restaurant for pasta? Just ok.
- I’ve been to these pasta places in Japan, and they’re much better over there.
- I was expecting Lazy Ox/Toranoko quality! Ok for the price in this area, but not worth traveling out of your way for.
Fat Spoon, 329 East 1st St., 213-621-7890