Fat city

Dinner for one: $20 - $40

Sacramento needs a full-time mayor, and it needs one now. Here’s why: Our status as culinary leader of the region is about to be usurped by Roseville. It’s not a question of if, but when. In fact, it may have already happened—such is the impact of Roseville’s newest eatery, Fats Asian Bistro and Dim Sum Bar.

It sits atop a small hill at the corner of Eureka Road and Rocky Ridge like a concrete colossus, ironically thin, back-lit letters spelling out the name that’s become synonymous with excellent pan-Asian cuisine in the Sacramento Valley. Fats Asian Bistro and Dim Sum Bar is a fitting monument to the Fat family’s phenomenal success and sets a new standard in architectural design for area restaurants.

The muted light streaming out of its narrow windows only hints at the luxury within: Four mature palms trees occupy the central dining area, vainly stretching their fronds to the peak of the 35-foot-high ceiling. Wood, from the rafters on down, is rich Honduran mahogany. Flat surfaces are topped with Italian granite; the floor is comprised of 16-inch slate tiles. From the Asian-themed paintings hanging on the back wall to the origami-like light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, the accoutrements bespeak class.

This new standard didn’t come cheap—cost of the new restaurant was $4,000,000. That means keeping the restaurant full is of paramount importance, which means no reservations are taken for parties less than eight, and that leads to the one and only problem with the new Fats: It’s virtually impossible to get a table around dinner time without waiting at least an hour and a half.

Other restaurants should be so lucky.

Fortunately, there’s plenty to take in during this idle period. Besides the space itself, it has one of the largest staffs you’ll find in any local restaurant, from the score of white-shirted chefs and chef-assistants in the stainless steel kitchen to the mandarin-costumed bus boys and girls roaming the dining area. The energy of the place is contagious.

After we were finally seated, the service was attentive without being overbearing. We selected a Mongolian baby-back ribs appetizer, poached baby bok choy, honey roasted Peking duck, and one of the evening’s specials, Thai curry seafood in a clay pot.

The ribs arrived promptly, stacked like Lincoln Logs on a small plate upon which the chef’s special sauce and hot mustard had been drizzled. They were lean and meaty with just a hint of chili; those in quest of more fire can drag each rib through the hot mustard. Excellent. We were given plenty of time to devour them before our bok choy and the entrées arrived.

The clay pot was filled to the brim with chunks of lobster, shrimp in and out of the shell, chunks of white fish, octopus and squid, suspended in the sweetest, silky smooth coconut curry sauce I’ve ever tasted. The lobster and the shrimp in the shell were a bit overcooked, but the abundance of other sea creatures more than made up for this discrepancy.

The duck was segmented Asian style with a crispy brown skin that had just a hint of honey. Two dipping sauces were pooled on the plate; we preferred the plum over the ginger-orange.

The baby bok choy, steamed in oyster sauce, was piled high on the plate, which was a good thing, since all of our other selections were devoid of vegetables.

We finished it all off with China black tea and mandarin orange soufflé, a diminutive but delightfully zesty custard-like cylinder served atop raspberry and orange sauce. The perfect clincher.

It was hard to fault the new Fats on anything. While the aforementioned wait may be cause to think twice about returning, a first visit is highly recommended to anyone in search of the ultimate local dining experience.

Don’t forget.

It’s in Roseville.

Someone please tell Heather Fargo.