Last night, Andy and I were treated to a sampling of Frank Fat’s very best dishes in promotion of their 75th Anniversary Dinner Special.
We met Head Chef Mike Lim and he spoke with us before our meal, not only about the food on the 75th Anniversary menu (below), but some other dishes available at Fat’s (a seasonal King Salmon dish and Farm to Fork People’s Choice Award recipient called Forbidden Salmon) and a Peach and Chicken Salad. Chef Lim will also be contributing a dish at this Sunday’s Farm-to-Fork’s Tower Bridge fundraising dinner.
Before I dive into the food we had, I will discuss the wine. I was distracted by making sure we had reported in with social media via Swarm, Twitter, Facebook, etc., Andy chose a 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewürztraminer. He did this because a slightly sweeter (but not too sweet) wine was going to pair very well with almost all of the food we were going to try (a lot of sweet and sour ingredients). He figured this wine would strike the most balance and it did.
First course on the 75th Anniversary menu is a Chinese Chicken Salad: Shredded chicken breast with pickled cucumber, almonds, and a sweet and sour vinaigrette. The chicken is moist and cut in thin strips and there are crunchy fried wontons on top to give the salad multiple textures. The dressing on the salad was an amazing pairing with our wine (as Andy predicted). 🙂
So instead of having to choose one main course each (as one would do if ordering from the pre-fixe menu, Chef Mike food bombed us with ALL of the dishes on the menu. Um, OK, twist my arm. (Everything you will see in this editorial except for the Yu Kwoks, Peach Chicken Salad, and Forbidden Salmon were inclusive on the pre-fixe.) Next up was the Honey Walnut Prawns: Lightly fried prawns glazed with honey sauce, walnuts, sesame seeds. This dish is probably one of the most iconic at Fat’s, so no wonder it’s on the 75th Anniversary menu. It’s sweet, crunchy, and tangy. Again, a great pairing with the Gewürztraminer.
Then came the Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry: Chicken breast and mixed vegetables in a Garlic Sauce–the one thing I didn’t feel guilty about eating! 🙂 I love stir fry dishes because of their high protein and vegetables as carb ratio. But of course, tonight would be different and I would have real carbs, as we also sampled the fried rice on the pre-fixe menu.
Next the Fried Rice dish: Young Shew Fried Rice: With barbecued pork, Chinese sausage, lettuce, and shrimp. It was nutty in flavor and had hints of sesame oil. The pork in the rice had been rendered so it was slightly crispy. The shrimp were small but plump and the little peas were bright green and fresh––they burst like little caviar when chewed.
At that point in the meal, I knew it would be extremely easy to write about. I sat there and realized how much I was enjoying the food because I hardly ever eat foods like fried rice or shrimp with carmelized walnuts. And hardly ever eating them makes them taste so much better when you do treat yourself!
Then, the eagerly awaited (and another signature menu item at Fat’s): Frank’s Style New York Steak: A 5-ounce NY steak smothered in sauteed onions and oyster sauce. We ordered it rare, as you really should. You can’t see in the picture, but it really did come out rare. It was tender and juicy and piled high with onions and the sweet oyster sauce. This also arguably went with the Gewürztraminer.
The 75th Anniversary menu ends in Banana Creme Pie, the ever popular classic dessert at Frank Fat’s. At $27.95 per person, it’s a real bargain and a nice sampling of the food that made Frank Fat’s the empire it is today.
Other food we sampled during the evening that was not on the pre-fixe menu:
Yu Kwok Dumpling: Frank’s special beef and pork dumpling, a Frank Fat specialty. I stopped at two of them, but I would have been happy to have them all. I had been craving dim sum for quite a while, and these really hit the spot. They are crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle, and filled with spiced ground beef and pork. They came with an array of dipping sauces–most interesting a chili sauce with some nice heat and a very interesting flavor that Chef Mike told me came from salted back bean. Yum! 🙂
We were also able to try the Peach and Chicken Salad with honey walnuts and what? Feta cheese. Super seasonal and very Farm-to-Fork–and off the wall, as I have never seen Feta cheese in a Chinese restaurant. Loved it!
My favorite dish of the evening was the “Forbidden King Salmon”: Salmon a la Plancha (grilled on a metal plate) and served with with Black Forbidden Rice, Heirloom Tomato and Lemongrass Veloute, Cilantro. It was with this plate I could truly see what Chef Mike is trying to do (and succeeding in doing) at Fat’s. He is using traditional Chinese techniques to make farm-to-fork cuisine. It’s not really a fusion thing, it’s more of using the methods already in place to elevate our bounty of seasonal ingredients.
The salmon dish was also a great example of incorporating different textures. The fish was perfectly cooked and flakey on top, the forbidden rice was almost a little sticky, but not as sticky as sushi rice, and there was a tomato and lemongrass veloute sauce on the bottom that brought the whole plate together.
It was all makings for a course I will not soon forget. Sadly, it won’t be available much longer, as salmon season is fleeting. So do yourself a favor and stop in for lunch to try the Forbidden Salmon. Take a half day off if you have to. It’s really that special.
Thanks to Frank Fat’s restaurant for hosting us, Chef Mike for stopping in the middle of a slightly busy dinner service to talk to us about the food, and thanks to Rosie, our server, who took very good care of us.
The fortune inside my fortune cookie really summed up the whole night:
Though the 75th Anniversary Menu promotion ends October 31st and from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, Fat’s will be hiding a $75 gift card in different locations around Sacramento that are noteworthy to the Fat family’s history. Clues for the “15 days of Fat’s” promotion will be posted on the Frank Fat’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as well as on the frankfats75.com website.
I was honored to be invited to yesterday’s media tasting of the America’a Classics Menu at Frank Fat’s. Of course, the menu at Frank Fat’s is not a perfect editorial fit for my Paleo/Primal website, but a James Beard award is not something you win everyday. I was happy and excited to attend and celebrate with members of the Fat family (who had just barely returned from the awards ceremony that took place Monday night in New York). It was like being a part of Sacramento history and a great excuse to take a little vacay day from being strict Paleo. Andy and I sat down with one of the most interesting amalgamations of Sacramento food writers and media personalities including Hank Shaw (also a winner of a James Beard award this year), Kitty O’Neal, Tina Macuha, Sarah Singleton, Chris Macias, and Chef Michael Tuohy (bonus)!
We were served family style at a large round table. As servers placed each course in the center, the plates spun around on a lazy susan, and smart phones hastily snapped pictures of each dish before they were
devoured sampled. Even Kitty O’Neal was live tweeting her lunch! It was great. 😉 Now, Andy is such a well behaved sidekick. He has been trained in the ways of food bloggery. He is well aware of the “wait, I have to take a picture of the food first before you dive in” rule.
So, without further delay, here’s a rundown on what we enjoyed.*
*Disclaimer: I did try almost everything we were served except for two dishes, a chow mein and the banana cream pie dessert, but only because I don’t react well to wheat or sugar.
The first course was a Char Siu Slider: Honey glazed pork with pickled vegetables served in a steamed “laughing” bun. These sliders could be a meal by themselves, and it would be fun to see variations of this dish with different fillings for the little pockets of dough.
Next was the ever popular Fat’s dish and an award-winning recipe: Honey Walnut Prawns–Crispy shrimp with glazed walnuts and a special sauce. Props to the chef for being light handed with the “mayernaise” (sic), as it is delightful to enjoy the crispiness of the fried shrimp, along with the creaminess of the sauce which includes mayonnaise (too much = soggy), and the sweetness and crunch of the walnuts. The trifecta of delectable was achieved.
Alert alert!! Bacon alarm sounding!! OK, so bacon in everything has come (and actually gone) as a “thing” (and as a food writer I feel like it’s rather silly), but not when it comes to the classic pairings. Bacon Wrapped Scallops were up next. And this dish puts bacon back where it belongs. Wrapped around seafood! The scallops were served with green beans and an oyster cream sauce. I handily gobbled 2 of these, as they were the closest thing to Paleo on the menu, and a combination of two of my favorite foods. What a classic dish, and Fat’s version has such a pretty presentation. The scallops reminded me of little snails on green grass.
The Gai Lan served as a tasty side to our meal. It’s a Chinese broccoli dish, drizzled with oyster sauce. Just love the emerald color on those greens!
The San Gai Shee Chow Mein is comprised of egg noodles with chicken, black mushrooms and snow peas. I passed on it only because I was filling up fast, and I heard there was steak coming. And, yes, I’m a wimp. Well, actually, I was trying to avoid gluten as much as possible. It looked and smelled delicious! 🙂
Then it was time for Frank’s Style New York Steak. It’s described on my menu as “smothered” in onions and oyster sauce, and from the picture you can see it’s true. That meat is getting no air at all! It’s practically choking in caramelized onion-y goodness! I was happy to see another gluten-free offering. Kevin Fat, (one of the family members, Director of Business Administration for Fat’s Restaurants, and the main host for the luncheon) remarked that it was one of the original dishes on the Frank Fat’s menu. It’s fascinating to think that “fusion” cuisine began ages before the term was actually coined.
For dessert, we were each presented with a slice of Fat’s Famous Banana Cream Pie which was apparently so good that Andy had 2 slices (one was mine) and even brought a third one home! Fat’s makes 15-25 pies twice per day. Now, that’s a lot of time on the treadmill. 😉 If you want to impress your friends, you can bring one of their pies to the next party you attend, as the pies can be ordered as a whole (with a 12 hour notice) if you simply call the restaurant. It’s up to you if you want to slip it in some tupperware and pass it off as your own. Not that you would ever do that! 😛
The James Beard America’s Classics Award has been given every year since 1998 to recognize the most beloved regional restaurants. Characteristics of the nominees and winners include timeless appeal and quality food that reflects the character of their communities. Along with Frank Fat’s, this year’s other nominees included: Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville, TN, C.F. Folks in Washington D.C., Keen’s Steakhouse in New York City, Kramarczuk’s in Minneapolis, MN. The Fat Family was honored and quite taken aback by the nomination and the award win (they did not nominate themselves).
“This award recognizes everything my father believed in – outstanding food, generous portions, caring service and a simple, but deep-rooted desire to make people happy, ” says Frank Fat’s President and CEO, Jerry Fat. “He loved his customers, they all loved him, and I believe that his spirit is what has kept us so successful all these years.”
To celebrate the James Beard award, Frank Fat’s will be hosting America’s Classics Month May 13-31, featuring same menu served at the media lunch and showcased in today’s post. It is priced at $29.95 per person (2 person minimum) and is a dine-in only offer.
To read more about Frank Fat’s history and the Sacramento Bee review by Blair Anthony Robertson, click here. You can find Frank Fat’s on Facebook here and on twitter here.
At the media luncheon, we watched a video about the restaurant that was played at the awards ceremony. I am posting it below because it pretty much sums up the spirit and greatness of the Fat’s empire.