Undoubtedly the most exciting food-oriented revelation in the April issue of Vancouver was the news that Angus An, chef and owner of Maenam and Longtail Kitchen (the former a serial gold winner in Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards’ Best Thai category) would soon open Fat Mao, a casual noodle-themed eatery in the city’s fastest-evolving neighbourhood. “I’ve been looking at Chinatown for some time,” he said. “When this space became available, I felt the noodle concept was a perfect fit.”
Fat Mao’s opening, we were told at the time, was imminent. But then, a series of construction and regulatory snafus all too familiar to restaurateurs repeatedly delayed it throughout spring and deep into summer. Happily, the wait—for An, his staff, and the dining public—officially ends tomorrow (Wednesday), when the 25-seat Fat Mao (“lucky cat” in Cantonese, incidentally) opens for lunch and dinner.
A soft opening that began this past weekend allowed those paying attention to social media the chance to preview the menu during limited hours, and some of us here at Vancouver (and at our sister publication, Western Living) were among them. We greedily sampled the lion’s share of the dishes on offer, and we can confidently report that An has another guaranteed success to add to his growing empire.
Noodles are, of course, the top attraction here. Portions are generous, and prices—especially given the quality and abundance of ingredients—are remarkable ($11.99 or less). We were especially seduced by koh soi (or Changmai curry noodles), a northern Thai dish in which scissor-cut rice noodles swim in a rich, complex sauce amidst bean sprouts, crisp fried noodles, fresh herbs, and a falling-off-the-bone chicken leg; and Taiwanese beef noodles, whose heady broth evokes liquid brisket. Bring a group of friends so you can properly explore the eight side dishes, including a show-stealing braised-tripe salad (which converted at least one avowed hater of the offal organ), and addictive scallion pancakes made by An’s “Mama.” (Tip: Use the back of your soup spoon to slather the latter with stellar house-made XO sauce.) Until the forthcoming liquor license makes beer available, order a can of Taiwanese apple soda to complement your feast and wobble out a very happy patron.
Be forewarned that there have been line-ups out the door, and the kitchen has been selling out of most dishes well before closing time. So arrive early, be patient, and know that your indulgence will be rewarded.
And lastly, be sure to pick up Vancouver’s fourth annual Food Issue (out Sept. 14) to read our in-depth profile of chef An.