Five Years Ago This Week, When Chinatown’s ‘Fat Mao’ Was Just Getting Started

Chef Angus An sits (where stock pots now stand) at Fat Mao | Photo: Scout Magazine

For this week’s edition of #ThrowbackThursday we go back exactly five years to the very beginnings of chef Angus An’s popular Fat Mao noodle joint in Chinatown.

Fat Mao quickly became a reliable fixture of the neighbourhood after it launched in the winter of 2015, its variety of soups keeps noodleheads coming back for more. It’s just one of those watertight operations that’s always a pleasure to let loose upon your appetite. Even the branding is on point.

Here’s what I wrote about the place when Scout broke the good news of its eventuality in the winter of 2015:

One of Vancouver’s leading culinary lights, Angus An (chef/owner of the award-winning Maenam restaurant in Kitsilano), has just taken possession of the ground floor space at 217 East Georgia Street, a brand new building in Chinatown.

The plan for the 730 sqft concrete and glass box is to create a licensed, 24 seat noodle bar called Fat Mao.

Future home of The Window, aka ‘the best seat in the house’. | Photo: Scout Magazine

The name is a playful paw at our hybrid culture, and though it infers a Cantonese/Mandarin bent (Cantonese “fat” meaning “lucky” and Mandarin “mao” meaning “cat”), the noodles will run a pan-Asian gamut, everything from Thai and Taiwanese to Japanese and Singaporean. Angus tells me there that will be approximately six types on offer, plus six sides and a selection of bottled craft beer.

Angus is a culinary polymath; the guy is seriously well versed in many cuisine types (eg. French, West Coast, Thai). He’s also a complete noodle nut and a local aficionado of noodle joints (not to mention dim sum). Though the goal is for a quick and easy comfort food joint, Fat Mao has all the signs of being a fetishist’s labour of love.

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It’s also likely to have a line-up at times on account of how little prep/store space it has. “We’ll start with 100 portions of noodles a day and then work our way up from there,” he says. “I think it’ll be impossible to do 200 portions a day, but we’ll see…” It sounds similar to the supply and demand model of Pizzeria Farina a couple of blocks south on Main Street, which is to say it sounds pretty smart (they stay open until they run out of dough).

With both The Ramen Butcher right next door and Phnom Penh across the street seeing line-ups everyday, it’s fair to wonder if Fat Mao will ever have enough noodles to make it through both lunch and dinner service. Either way, it’s a nice problem to have!

Once the building permit is in place (imminent), construction will get underway with Mark George and Sue Nagy of Kite Studios (did Re-up in New Westminster) doing the design together with Marianne Amodio. Opening day is being tentatively set for early April.

If you’re still unfamiliar with Fat Mao’s deliciousness, you need to pay them a visit. My favourite bowl is the electric Dan Dan with vermicelli, but to each his/her own. Take a look and have a sniff…

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