This newest of Chef Guy Wong’s growing restaurant empire, occupying the same space as his short-lived Yum Bunz in bustling West Midtown, bills itself as a Vietnamese brasserie. I like that they offer reservations and valet parking.
The lack of both can make a Saturday night restaurant visit as stressful as trying to change a flat tire on Spaghetti Junction in rush hour.
The 3,330-square-foot space designed by the same folks who did The Optimist, Watershed and JCT Kitchen features an opulent bar, lots of cozy, “meet the strangers next to you” seating, and a bakery counter that while forlorn at night probably bustles by day. There’s a good restaurant vibe, but the underlying, unidentifiable music creates a distracting cacophony similar to the thumping music that car next to you at a red light thinks you want to hear.
I want to like Le Fat, despite our waiter’s snarky and impolite comments to one in our party who interrupts him during his welcome spiel; or the seeming fastidious manager, who with great flare refolds the napkin of one in our party who has stepped away, only to lay it obliviously upon a dirty tabletop.
There’s a variety of signature and classic cocktails, some requiring a UN interpreter to decipher the ingredients. There’s also an interesting list of beers by the bottle and wines by the glass.
The “crispy” spring rolls contain chicken, shrimp and wood ear mushrooms, but their wrappers are allowed to languish in oil. The PEI mussels are plump and nicely cooked with lots of tasty sake lemongrass broth to sop up if only it didn’t require an act of Congress to get another slice of country-charred bread. The soft-shell crab on a mantou-style steamed bun with crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato and Sambal mayo was a contrast in textures with the crispy crab and bacon playing against the pillowy soft Chinese-style bun. It was a good dish needing just a little more spice from the Sambal.
Unfortunately, several of its specialty dishes lack just that, anything to make them special. The Bo Luc Lac, or Shaking Beef, a reference to the wok preparation, was tender Angus beef lacking the promised sear, and served over wilted Romaine lettuce, missing the contrast of watercress that the more traditional preparation provides.
The Cà Ri Gà, or Vietnamese Curry Chicken, was moderately spicy with a meager amount of chicken, potato and carrot. The Madras curry sauce had good flavor but was unremarkable and similar to many found elsewhere. The “Drunken” Pan Noodles were bits of chewy beef, sautéed onions and wide, flat rice noodles that were overly oily and needing a touch of salt. The Chicken Clay Pot was the shining redeemer of the lot with bits of perfectly cooked, tender, yet crisp, chicken and sautéed onions in a delicious sauce; it was worth the 15-minute additional wait.
Rice is the life’s bread of any good Asian cookery. Theirs is a seeming forgettable afterthought that comes to the table as a starchy, gummy, crusty snowball, barely on par with what most takeout places serve in those little red and white cardboard boxes.
I want to like Le Fat and like all burgeoning endeavors; I hope it succeeds. For now, it’s mildly disappointing, arguably over-priced and bested by many Asian restaurants all over town.
Le Fat is located at 935 Marietta St. For more information, visit lefatatl.com.
Art Huckabee is one of Yelp’s Elite Reviewers, as well as a pilot, gourmet cook and food lover. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org