March 23, 2009

Fat Hippo

Fat Hippo is a recent comfort food-focused opening in the Lower East Side that has garnered a fair amount of buzz. I heard about the place from Matt, and upon inspecting the menu, a consensus was made that we needed to try this place out. We made a reservation (rumor was that it was often crowded), and gathered five peeps to fill out the minimum needed to keep said reservation. And then we ate.. a lot.

The space is smallish with low lighting, modern booth seating, and a bar along one wall. The bar is currently full of glasses, since they are awaiting a liquor license and are BYOB. Luckily there's a convenience store across the street (although I think the guy working there literally makes up the prices on the spot judging by what size bill you pull out of your wallet), and they will happily supply the glasses and chill your remaining drinks until you're ready for them.

We decided to order two of the chocolate and chili ribs appetizers ($8) and a side of mac 'n cheese ($4) to share. The picture above looks a little sad because we devoured half of everything before we remembered to snap one. The ribs were tender and had a great taste from the glaze. We all ended up wanting more, but my only issue was the small portion (2 big ribs) and I could have used a bit more kick. The mac 'n cheese was some of the best I've had in a while-- cheesy, creamy, well-cooked pasta, with crusty Parmesan on top. I'm going back for this if nothing else.

I ordered the Grilled Marinated Pork Chop (above, $13), bone-in and cooked to order, with pulled-pork stuffing and brussel sprouts with bacon and maple-jalapeno mustard sauce. See what a healthy meal this is shaping up to be? I'm eating greens. Anyway, the pork chop was delicious. Flavorful and tender, and a large serving even with the big bone. The stuffing was slightly sweet and tender, and a great pairing with the pork. The brussel sprouts were perfectly cooked, but the sauce was a bit strong and acidic, competing with other flavors on the plate.

Overall the food was very good and ultimately satisfying, and the service was attentive. They did awkwardly ask us to finish our drinks at the bar after we ate in order to free the table for another reservation, and then didn't seat anyone there for the rest of the time we were there. There was also really no good place to stand since the bar was crowded, so it was awkwardtown for a while before we left. That, and a lady got very sick outside of the bathroom I was in and an ambulance was called. But that is not a story for a food blog.

Fat Hippo is worth a try if you're in the mood for some semi-fancy comfort food in the LES for decent prices. Get in while they're still BYOB and save even more! -Laurel

As Laurel said, Matt recommended this place, and I was perfectly enthused to try it. When I called to make the reservation, they were very nice, explaining the perfect times to come (during the week, or if you choose the weekend try and come at 7pm or 10pm, if you can't get a reservation, as they only take them for parties of 5 or larger). The food is Southern comfort mixed with a splash of class. Not to say that Southerner's don't have class, but Southern food can be a bit...messy.

Case in point: the chili and chocolate prime ribs. They were absolutely delicious, but considering I didn't remember to take a picture until after I had already dug my grubby hands into them, I had to hold my camera with my pinkies and take the picture with my ring finger. This proved to be difficult, and made the picture look pathetic. However, trust me, the food is not pathetic. Upon the first bite, the mixture of the sweet and spicy hit my tongue with a surprise. The meat wasn't falling off the bone as I like, but it was still tender and juicy. The pickled watermelon, carrots and slaw on the side were a nice balance, although I wasn't a fan of them alone. The macaroni and cheese was some of the best I've had in a while. The cheese smooth, yet a little crusty on top, and the pasta was cooked to perfection. The waitress recommended it, and it was a great recommendation.

Something the waitress didn't recommend was the meatloaf (not to say that she point blank said, "Do not get this," but she didn't mention it when we asked for her favorites.) However, the Turkey Meatloaf with Taramind Ketchup and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole ($12) sounded like exactly what I wanted that night. After trying everyone else's food - Laurel and Lauren's porkchop, Stan's fries from his burger entree and Matt's chicken (below), I have to say I made the wrong choice. The meatloaf was good, not great, but good. It was exactly what you would expect from meatloaf - tender, juicy and not overly flavorful. The mashed potatoes and green bean casserole were very tasty - exactly as your mother would make them.

However, Laurel's pork was oh-so-tender, and the piece of chicken I tried from Matt's plate made me die and go to heaven. He ordered the Trailer Park Chicken Sampler ($15). This included beer can roasted chicken breast, southern fried drumstick, smoked thigh meat, sautéed collard greens, raisin sauce and corn bread. A lot, right? I believe I only tried the beer can roasted chicken breast, but it was enough to make me want all of it. The only reason I didn't order it was because it seemed like a lot of meat. Bad decision.

One thing that none of us tried and I wish I had been in the mood for, was the Burger Fondue. Even though the restaurant has only been open for a short while, they are already famous for it. I'll be back, definitely. - Jennifer

Address: 71 Clinton Street (at Rivington)

Payment: cash only

Delivery: no

Open Late: yes

Large Group Friendly: Not really, but they do take reservations of 5 or more if you plan ahead

Bar/Happy Hour: Coming Soon! (BYOB)

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