The broth is being made and the noodles are waiting – Fat Mao’s new Downtown location will be ready for guests beginning next week.
The other day I snuck in to have a look around. “There’s still a little work to be done,” Angus said, as he ushered me through the door…
It was not immediately apparent to me what work he was referring to: ash and light oak tables and chairs were in place, shelves were loaded with provisions, trays of condiments were lined up like tasty battalions ready to be deployed to tables, and the walls were freshly painted in a lovely two-toned blue. There was even a ‘Fat Mao’ mascot (hand built from Lego by An’s son, Aidan) auspiciously perched in the corner of the partially glassed-in kitchen, which itself was already busy with staff prepping for service. The entire operation looked ready to me.
To refresh your memory of the project, here are some excerpts from our first story about this new location…
An uptick in the consumption of take-out comfort food over the past few years has been good news for Chinatown’s Fat Mao.
Maybe the only downside is that the 25-seat noodle shop has been burning through kitchen equipment trying to keep up with the demand for their made-from-scratch curries, broths and sauces. Chef and owner Angus An wasn’t looking to open a second location, but when one presented itself at the foot of The Wall Centre South Building (983 Helmcken Street between Burrard and Hornby), and he discovered that it included access to a commissary kitchen that could help relieve some of his production woes – he jumped in.
From what I understand, the look and feel of the new downtown location will align with Fat Mao’s original Chinatown spot: kindred colours and materials will help carry over a similar aesthetic, and many favourite Fat Mao menu items (roti, Khao Soi curry, mapo tofu and braised duck made with ingredients sourced from small local providers) will be available out of its space-conscious open kitchen. But downtown won’t be a carbon copy of Chinatown; there will also be a few unique design details (some low ‘Japanese style’ bar seating, for example) as well as some exclusive menu items (keep your eye out for hot and sour seafood noodles, an expanded cocktail menu, and desserts).
Tucked around the corner, on a one-way street off Burrard, this address isn’t an obvious choice. Still, after a quick mental inventory of the surrounding streets, I noted that surprisingly few inventive, good quality and tasty food options are happening in this area of downtown – which should work in Fat Mao’s favour. Add to this the proximity to St. Paul’s Hospital (which will remain at its Burrard Street location – just one block away – for at least the next four years), traffic from numerous nearby hotels, businesses and theatres (and the fact that the Royal Thai Consulate-General offices are also located in Wall Centre). It seems reasonable to forecast that this new location of Fat Mao will not only fill a void but will also be busy enough to add to the culinary demands of its Chinatown location to keep that commissary running at full tilt on a near-constant basis.
Our earlier prediction seems more and more likely to be true. Now that the paper is off the windows and the room is finished, there is considerable interest from people walking by on the street.
Here’s an excerpt from today’s full press release:
Fat Mao is an ode to the small storefronts handed down through several family generations that specialize in making one single dish over and over.” explains An. “I want our guests to pull up a stool and enjoy a bowl of their favourite noodle soup with a good novel for years to come.”
While the small and focused downtown menu features many fan favourites from the original Fat Mao, it will also offer a handful of tempting dishes from ceviche to rotating flavours of shaved ice (you read that correctly—shaved ice!) that are exclusive to the new location. Debut highlights include braised brisket noodles served with Asian celery and fried garlic; Nam Ngaio—a Northern-style tender pork-rib noodle dish with pork-blood cake, red cotton tree flowers and fermented soybean; Albacore tuna ceviche with aromatic herb dressing and crispy taro; and Thai-tea shaved ice for a sweet finish, served with grass jelly and condensed milk with Thai iced-tea panna cotta. The distinctive interior of this casual 25-seat noodle joint was designed by An himself with help of his millworker Denis Lafreiere and mirrors that of the first Chinatown spot. Guests will be welcomed by an open kitchen fitted solely with induction cooktops and helmed by Fat Mao’s head chef and kitchen manager Sai Woranut Pounpakonsolely. There’s an abundance of natural light in the open, airy room, thanks to plenty of street-front windows, and the modern aesthetic is punctuated with pine-wood carpentry and splashes of smoky blue. Eye-catching elements offer playful accents throughout the space, including a pearlescent ‘noodle’ light feature designed by Bocci and charming trinkets depicting the eatery’s lucky cat mascot. A custom contemporary painting by An’s longtime friend, artist George Vergette, is slated to be installed later this September.
Plans are to open doors after the Labour Day weekend (Tuesday, September 6, 2022). Hours will be 11:30am – 9pm, weekdays only.
In the meantime, this is what it looked like yesterday, as they were getting reading for a test-run friends and family service…