DINER: Campagnolo Crew To Open New “Fat Dragon”, A Chinese BBQ Joint On The DTES

February 3, 2012.

by Andrew Morrison | Robert Belcham and Tom Doughty, the owner/sommelier duo behind the two Campagnolo restaurants, are opening a Chinese BBQ restaurant called Fat Dragon in the heart of the Downtown Eastside (566 Powell).


View Larger Map

Joining them as a first time owner is Ted Anderson, long the chef at Refuel and now at Campagnolo Roma out on East Hastings (always nice to see that happen). The concept is interesting – Chinese food with a Southern US “lick of smoke” – and I’m sure they’ll nail it (the menu reads fantastic, and we’ll get to that soon), but let’s be honest; the thing that will define The Fat Dragon won’t be its food, but rather its location, at least in its first couple of years.

If you thought Salt Tasting Room in Blood Alley was daring back in the day, or really any location remotely worthy of the word in recent years, dinner at Fat Dragon will be – for some – like going to the moon. It’s this section of the DTES around Oppenheimer Park that has been (and still is) considered a bridge too far by restaurateurs, even hungry first-timers with very few funds. There is a community here, and a strong one at that, but it has to face a daily gnarliness that no other neighbourhood in the city has to contend with. I think for most Vancouverites, the idea of dining out hereabouts is repellent, and yet the restaurant, due in under two months, will probably do very well indeed.

A year or two ago I posited in a magazine article that new restaurant development in these parts was on its way. I likened the advance to that of an invading force employing a pincer movement around the most seemingly prohibitive blocks of the DTES. The concentration of the attack was building up eastward pressure from Cambie through to Carrall in Gastown, where dozens of new establishments had opened since 2006. The left pincer was heading down Powell, Alexander, and Cordova (Big Lou’s, Nicli Antica, Cadeaux, etc), while the right pincer was pushing up Keefer through Chinatown to hit Main around Strathcona (The Union, The Keefer, Brixton, etc). The two hooking flanks, I wrote, had already connected on East Hastings at Au Petit Chavignol (2009) and The Waldorf Hotel (2010), effectively enveloping the whole of the DTES with a ring of new eateries (for the military historians out there, remember the Battles of Marathon, Cannae, and The Falaise Gap).

Thus surrounded, the main concentration, what the eminent strategist Von Clauswitz would call the “schwerpunkt”, has been getting ready to burst eastward on Hastings proper for the past year (witness the comings of Wildebeest, Save On Meats, Bitter, Acme Cafe, etc). All that remains to be conquered – to put it indelicately – are the blocks within the ring, at the center of which lies Fat Dragon, with its 12 SROs above.

Fat Dragon owners Robert Belcham, Tom Doughty, and Ted Anderson at Campagnolo Roma on East Hastings

But why assume it will do well? For starters, the folks behind Campagnolo are no slouches. They’ve opened four small businesses in the past five years, with all but one of them opening where (mostly) others were afraid to. 566 Powell may be where angels still fear to tread, but no matter if the West Side is too shit scared to make the trip at first, others will come (I live within the ring, and suspect many of my neighbours are drooling as they read this). Those restaurants that make up the pincers and the schwerpunkt have revealed that much to be true, as not a single one of them has flopped.

Secondly, it’s a solid food concept. I’ve seen the menu, and it has everything from smoked I-San style pork hot links with cucumber and coriander relish to marinated and smoked crispy tofu Bao buns with bean sprout kimchi and holy basil (I won’t reveal anything else just yet, save to say we’ll also see whole fish and pig’s head). Chef Adam Johnson (ex-Pourhouse, Campagnolo) will have a smoker in house, and I imagine he’ll take good advantage of all the markets that are just around the corner (and let’s not forget that the kitchen tag-team of Anderson/Belcham snared Robert the 2009 Chef of the Year title).

In the end, however, it’s all about supply and demand. There are shockingly few restaurants in Vancouver that hybridize Chinese cuisine, pairing it successfully with booze and leaning large on aesthetics, and I think demand for more is considerably high (just try and get a table at Bao Bei during the dinner rush).

Third, the design is going to be pretty awesome. Marc Bricault is on the case (think Vij’s, the recent West redux, Thierry, Campagnolo, Refuel), and he’s making it look like a 1920’s style opium den with a lot of reclaimed fir, grass cloth, and design motifs that gel with the food concept. The old space (previously “The Bakery”, where one could freely buy weed) is long and wide, and will seat some 50 people, with an additional 13 seats at a central bar that is some 18ft wide. The tables are butcher block-style and over-sized to accommodate many dishes (everything is served family style), while the adjoining chairs are wooden and not a little rickety, which again dovetails nicely with the theme. The building dates from just prior to the First World War, and so has solid, fantastic-looking brick bones. Its high, beautifully decrepit ceilings will be criss-crossed with string, from which bulbs will hang, market-style. The clincher? A neon sign – in the form of a fat dragon, natch – will brighten the gloomy frontage. Take a look at what I saw last night…

  • The Fat Dragon | Exterior
  • The Fat Dragon | Signage
  • The Fat Dragon | Kitchen window
  • The Fat Dragon | Front flanking banquettes
  • The Fat Dragon | from the front right
  • The Fat Dragon | Ceilings (they aim to keep them this way)
  • The Fat Dragon | from the kitchen
  • The Fat Dragon | ceilings
  • The Fat Dragon | front right
  • The Fat Dragon | The Bar
  • The Fat Dragon | Front left
  • The Fat Dragon | Tables
  • The Fat Dragon | Chairs
  • The Fat Dragon | Kitchen walk in
  • The Fat Dragon | kitchen
  • The Fat Dragon | kitchen
  • The Fat Dragon | grass-clothed wrapped washrooms
  • The Fat Dragon | The bar
  • The Fat Dragon | Hoops for entrance installation
  • The Fat Dragon | Bar to back
  • The Fat Dragon | The street, looking west toward the city

ALL ANTICIPATED RESTAURANTS

#ScoutThis

There are 8 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Diner Delicious restaurant intel...

DINER | Where To Put Proper Food & Drink In Your Face Between Movie Screenings At VIFF

DINER | Where To Put Proper Food & Drink In Your Face Between Movie Screenings At VIFF

by Ken Tsui | When bouncing between screenings at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, let the following words of wisdom (from an adult more… more 

INTELLIGENCE BRIEFS | On Breaking The Five Second Rule And Appalling Restaurant Names

INTELLIGENCE BRIEFS | On Breaking The Five Second Rule And Appalling Restaurant Names

by Talia Kleinplatz | Wrigley handily shuts down Donald Trump Jr. with six little words: “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people.” New restaurant in… more 

SCOUT 25 POLL | Our Readers Rank The Best Restaurants In The City, Autumn 2016 Edition

SCOUT 25 POLL | Our Readers Rank The Best Restaurants In The City, Autumn 2016 Edition

The Autumn 2016 Scout 25 has just been released. It’s what you should feel confident giving to anyone who asks “Where should I eat in Vancouver?”… more 

DINER | Finger-Lickin’ Awesomeness: Where To Find The Best Fried Chicken In Vancouver

DINER | Finger-Lickin’ Awesomeness: Where To Find The Best Fried Chicken In Vancouver

by Andrew Morrison | I'm digging the fried chicken at Juke these days, especially the little sandwiches they make ($9 for a pair!), but when I think about it… more 

INTELLIGENCE BRIEFS | On Ancient Wineries, Pizza Ploys & Trying Coke For The First Time

INTELLIGENCE BRIEFS | On Ancient Wineries, Pizza Ploys & Trying Coke For The First Time

by Talia Kleinplatz | A person who has never tasted Coca-Cola in 2016 is pretty much a modern day unicorn and Eater found her. Check out Jamie Lauren Keiles’… more 

DINER | Chef Felix Zhou’s New ‘Heritage Asian Eatery’ Nears Opening On West Pender Street

DINER | Chef Felix Zhou’s New ‘Heritage Asian Eatery’ Nears Opening On West Pender Street

by Andrew Morrison | One of the oddest, most under-served parts of town (from a hospitality industry perspective) is the western extreme of the Financial… more 

INTELLIGENCE BRIEFS | On Imitating Venice & The Threat Of Tacos On Every Street Corner

INTELLIGENCE BRIEFS | On Imitating Venice & The Threat Of Tacos On Every Street Corner

by Talia Kleinplatz | Eater shares their picks for the most anticipated American restaurant openings this fall. PNW favourites include Seattle’s Southpaw and… more 

SO HOT RIGHT NOW | Brand New Vancouver Restaurants That Totally Live Up To The Hype

SO HOT RIGHT NOW | Brand New Vancouver Restaurants That Totally Live Up To The Hype

We’ve been keeping track of restaurant openings for a very long time. We try to focus on and follow the construction arcs of the ones we believe are going… more 

The scout Community

49th Parallel Coffee Roasters & Lucky’s Doughnuts Acorn Alibi Room Ancora Waterfront Dining & Patio AnnaLena Araxi Ask For Luigi Au Comptoir Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie Bar Oso Bauhaus Beach Bay Café & Patio Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe Bel Café Bestie Bishop’s Bistro Pastis Bistro Wagon Rouge Bittered Sling Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar Bottleneck Bufala Burdock & Co. Cadeaux Bakery Café Medina Caffè Artigiano Camp Lifestyle + Coffee Co. Campagnolo Campagnolo ROMA Cartems Donuterie Chambar Chefs’ Table Society of BC Chez Christophe Chocolaterie Patisserie  Chicha Chill Winston ChocolaTas Chocolate Arts Cibo Trattoria Cinara CinCin Ristorante + Bar Cioffi’s Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill Cocktails & Canapes Catering + Events Cook Culture Culinary Capers Catering & Special Events Dirty Apron Cooking School & Delicatessen District Brasserie Dixie’s Authentic Texas BBQ Earnest Ice Cream Edible Canada Elementa Espana Exile Bistro Fable Fanny Bay Farmer’s Apprentice Fat Badger Fat Mao Fernwood Coffee Company Field & Social Forage Giovane Cafe + Eatery Gotham Steakhouse & Bar Grain Granville Island Grapes & Soda Greenhorn Espresso Bar Gyoza Bar Harkness & Co. Harvest Community Foods Hawksworth Restaurant Heirloom Homer Street Cafe & Bar Hy’s Steakhouse Irish Heather Jamjar JJ Bean Joy Road Catering Juice Truck Juniper Keefer Bar Kin Kao Knifewear Kozakura Kuma Tofino L’Abattoir La Buca La Mezcaleria La Pentola La Quercia La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop Latab Wine Bar Les Amis du Fromage Lions Pub, The Liquidity Bistro Little District Lobby Lounge + RawBar Lolita’s South Of The Border Cantina Longtail Kitchen Maenam Mamie Taylor’s MARKET by Jean-Georges Matchstick Coffee Roasters Meat & Bread Meinhardt Fine Foods Miku Restaurant Milano Coffee Minami Miradoro Mission Mister Mogiana Coffee Mosquito Nero Belgian Waffle Bar Nicli Antica Pizzeria Nightingale Nomad Nook Nuba Oakwood Canadian Bistro OLO OPUS Bar Oru Osteria Savio Volpe Oyama Sausage Co. Pallet Coffee Roasters Pat’s Pub & BrewHouse Phoenix Perennials Pidgin Pied-à-Terre Pizzeria Farina Pourhouse Railtown Cafe Railtown Catering Rain Or Shine Ice Cream Red Wagon, The Revolver Coffee Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. Royal Dinette Sai Woo Salt Tasting Room Salty Tongue Café Savoury Chef Shaughnessy Restaurant Shebeen Whisk(e)y House Shelter Shika Provisions Siena Six Acres Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe Sorella Stable House, The Steel Toad Brewpub & Dining Hall Tableau Bar Bistro Tacofino Tavola Terra Breads Thierry Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie Timber Timbertrain Coffee Roasters Torafuku Tractor Foods Truffles Fine Foods Two Rivers Specialty Meats UBC Farm Uncommon Cafe, The Urban Digs Farm Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise™ Program West Restaurant Wildebeest Wolf In The Fog YEW seafood

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was .

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was .