February 14, 2016 – I love the serendipity of life. It leads you to some amazing places. Memorable adventures. Great food.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day we decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants in the afternoon and enjoy some of their small plates and perhaps a cocktail or two. We miscalculated. All the restaurants were completely booked. Not even bar tables available. Most had special Valentine menus.
My wife remembered an Asian restaurant she had frequented once. When we called they said they did have tables available in the bar. We drove right over. Once again serendipity led us to a noteworthy experience.
Fat’s Asia Bistro & Dim Sum Bar in Folsom is one of four restaurants in the Sacramento area owned by the Fat family. Frank Fat immigrated to California from China’s Canton Province in 1919. He worked at whatever jobs he could get for 20 years. In 1939, the story goes, he so impressed a man he had just met that the man loaned him $2,000 to open a restaurant.
He used the money to open Frank Fat’s in Sacramento. The food was good. The atmosphere was enticing. Before long Frank Fat’s became a favorite gathering place of politicians, business leaders and socialites in California’s capital city. In 2013 the restaurant was honored with a James Beard Award, a mark of excellence in the world of food. Today the third generation of the Fat family is maintaining the high standards set by their grandfather.
But back to our misjudgment that led to a most delightful Valentine’s Day. Fat’s Asia Bistro & Dim Sum Bar in Folsom.
It, too, was busy on this most romantic of holidays. When we arrived three parties were seated on benches outside the front door waiting for tables. My wife walked through the bar to see if she could spot one of the tall tables that might be available. As she passed one occupied table the couple told her they would be leaving as soon as they settled their bill.
Within five minutes we were comfortably seated on the bar side of the elegant restaurant. We were also fortunate that the young woman assigned to our table was Tonya, perhaps one of the best restaurant workers I can recall encountering. She was doing the work of two people. Almost running from kitchen and bar to table. But her smile came quickly and her sense of humor was likely what kept her motor running.
Her poker face when she told me they were out of water fooled me completely. She could have a career as a professional gambler or in stand up comedy. I got a glass of water and a good laugh as well.
My wife ordered an Asian martini with a touch of Midori. Midori is an extremely sweet melon-flavored liqueur that originated in Japan. She was happy with her martini.
I asked for a mojito. What I got was the best mojito I’ve ever had.
A mojito isn’t the easiest cocktail to get right. It’s a mixture of white rum, sugar cane juice (though most bars use plain sugar), lime juice, sparkling water and muddled mint. I don’t often order them because it’s difficult to get the proper balance of ingredients. Most are either too sweet or not sweet at all. The bar at Fat’s Asia Bistro got it perfectly correct.
The mojito was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cocktail. Papa would have spent the afternoon ordering the mojitos at Fat’s. One after another.
For a starter we opted for a steaming bowl of spicy edamame. The green soy bean pods arrived tossed with slim hot red peppers in a finger-licking slightly sweet sauce. We couldn’t eat them fast enough. Like the mojito, I thought the edamame were the best I’ve ever been served.
My wife ordered the Dim Sum Basket. The wooden Asian-style basket came filled with chicken pot stickers, pork shu mei (pork filled dumplings) and crab Rangoon (won tons with a creamy crab filling). The pork shu mei and crab Rangoon that I tried would be hard to beat.
I asked for the Genghis Khan beef. Flank steak stir-fried with jalapenos and mushrooms served with shrimp and pork won tons. The steak was falling apart tender. The dish was spicy and flavorful. Terrific. Simply terrific.
On the way out I walked by the glass case where the restaurant displays its desserts. There was a whole banana cream pie. I had a feeling it wanted to go home with me. I was tempted but decided against it. Another miscalculation. When I researched the history of the restaurant dynasty that Frank Fat started those many years ago I learned that banana cream pie was, and is, a specialty of Fat’s restaurants.
I’m going back for a banana cream pie.
Some more edamame.