Fat Meh Noodles: An Early Review of Fat Mao Noodles

I just spent the last half an hour looking longingly at old Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle photos. But this is a supposed to be a review of Fat Mao Noodles! I guess that says something…that I’d rather revisit 2-3 year old experiences than think about what happened yesterday.

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I have the utmost respect for Angus An. Maenam is probably the best modern Thai restaurant in Canada, and I have an unabashed love for Longtail Kitchen, which I’ve written about on this blog SIX TIMES (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6). And he’s done all this while being a family man, which you can see on his Instagram feed.

I was excited to see what he could do with Fat Mao, a pan-Asian noodle joint. They had a soft-opening last week and just opened up officially this week (August 19, 2015). Moyenchow and I checked it out on their third official day of opening.

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Yup, that’s me in the reflection. I would like to see my reflection in this window one more time…under better circumstances.

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The whole cat theme gave me a chuckle. Torafuku down the street (and also their Le Tigre truck) is another Asian place that has a bit of a cat theme running through their menu (eg. “Angry Tiger Sauce”). IMHO it gets tiresome after a while though…

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Their hours are officially 11:00am – 10:00pm, but on this particular day, they sold out of noodles after lunchtime and had to close until 5:00pm while they prepped more noodles:

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A small crowd had formed in front of Fat Mao around 4:50pm.

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Their menu (subject to change) is available online. They’ve got five quite different Asian noodles on the menu. Is it going to be a case of doing too many things at once? Even for a menu as small as this?

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Looking through the front window: I love that layer of oil. That says flavour to me 😉 I think this might be for the Khao Soi Gai (Chiang Mai Curry Noodles). I’ve had this dish at Longtail Kitchen and absolutely love it there, so I’d rather just eat it there instead and have something new and different here.

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We got seated at 5:00pm and within a couple minutes the place was full. I think this place only fits about ~30 people? Officially 24. So it gets full quite easy.

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I really wish these were copies of Iron Wok Jan or Oishinbo because Japanese culture has such an unparallelled fixation on the nuances of food.

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I dunno how you feel about drinking out of mason jars…I don’t really like feeling the thread on my lips. But from a restaurant’s point of view, they are cheap and cheap to replace.

Note to the couple sitting next to us: wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more! 😉 COUGH!

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Dan Dan Noodles ($8.99) with…uh…there’s a lack of menu descriptions with this whole place, so I’ll just have to guess: wheat noodles in a peanutty gravy with ground beef & pork, bean sprouts, cilantro and crushed peanuts.

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This was a dish that everyone on Welp hated. So naturally I ordered it to see what the deal was. The restaurant must’ve tweaked the dish because I didn’t think it was salty or overseasoned at all. Whether it’s “Dan Dan” or what most people expect when they order “Dan Dan” is another issue. I’ve only eaten Dan Dan noodles maybe once before in my life? So I approached this with no expectations really, except for “does it taste good?”

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This is what it looks like mixed up. Tasty enough but not that exciting. I wish there was more texture and bite to the noodles. I suspect that during their soft opening, this was made more in the style of “punch to the face” but early Welpers couldn’t handle it, so it’s been changed to a more typical Dan Dan style. I could be wrong though — just my impression from piecing together bits of online feedback and comparing with what I experienced. I wouldn’t order this again.

Addendum: I wonder what Dan Dan noodles Andrew Morrison ate? To quote: “…electrified with layered spices, and intense enough to make every other bowl of the stuff I’ve ever had in Vancouver seem weak in retrospect.” ???

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Taiwanese Beef Noodles ($11.99) with Soft Boiled Soy Egg ($1.99).

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Good job with the egg. Whites were silky, the yolk gooey.

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Proportionate amount of beef. This was Moyenchow‘s bowl, so she’ll probably have much more to say about this bowl than I do, so look out for her review in the near future. But here’s what I thought from the bit that I had:

I wish the broth had more depth. I wish the noodles had more bite. I usually don’t harp on price, but if you’re charging $1 more for a smaller bowl than Chef Hung, you have to bring the flavour. Chef Hung slays this bowl. If you’ve ever bitten into a robust, chewy Chef Hung noodle, you know what I mean. No comparison.

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Side of Braised Tripe Salad ($7.99). Loved the tongue-numbing szechuan peppercorns in this. But behind that numbing sensation was a watery, bland tripe. It should be marinated and infused with flavour that just squishes out as you chew, but instead I just got a watery blandness.

One person messsaged me that he hated the numbing peppercorns in this dish. Completely legitimate reaction, I think, because even for me the inclusion of szechuan peppercorns was a surprise, and I know it’s an acquired taste for most people. This restaurant has a bit of a problem with communicating the nature of these dishes and managing expectations. Adding menu descriptions might help…OR:

Why not go full-on manga with the menu? In food manga, there are always achingly illustrated dishes with hyper-detailed descriptions. Something along the lines of this, from Addicted to Curry?

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Why can’t a restaurant menu be like this?

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Fat Kimchi ($2.99 x 3). They had three kinds of kimchi that day (l-r): Acorn Squash, Radish, and Napa Cabbage. The acorn squash with pine nuts was an interesting one. The texture was still very “raw” and firm, reminding us of the crunch of pickled mango. The kimchi radish was VERY strong, to the point where I questioned it’s place among the menu. I think it’s too strong of a flavour to go with anything else on the menu. It’d be better eaten with a big bowl of plain rice. The cabbage kimchi was a good, well-fermented kimchi, comparable to what you’d get at a good Korean restaurant or market. However, I really miss kimchi made with raw seafood like clams or even oysters…not THAT’S a whole other level of deliciousness! I think they still have that kind of kimchi for sale at H-mart… I know they like to ferment things like sausage at Maenam, so doing a superlative kimchi is not out of this restaurant’s abilities.

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House Seasonal Pickles ($2.99). “Watermelon radish” on the left, garlic stems in the middle, and onion on the right. The gentle sweetness of the radish was a welcome contrast to the flavours of the rest of our meal. I liked the garlic stems too…nice crunch and seasoned just right. Onions in general I can take or leave.

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We unfortunately discovered these condiments AFTER we were finished our meal! So we’ve got a chili oil, chili flakes (looks like the same kind that they have at Longtail Kitchen), pickled garlic & chilies, and some mystery orange stuff which I assume is another hot sauce…looks like a habanero sauce or something…

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I couldn’t finish the meat mixture from my Dan Dan noodles. I just got bored of the flavour. The bowls are cute though!


 

Fat Mao has a tough road ahead if they are to survive the initial hype. There are probably more than 50 places in the Lower Mainland to get Taiwanese beef noodles, some of which are REALLY good. If you can’t compete against the status quo, what’s the point?

That said, I do want to try their Braised Duck Noodles, which might actually be their best dish aside from the Khao Soi… Here’s hoping…hoping that it tastes good, and hoping I can show my face there again.

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2 thoughts on “Fat Meh Noodles: An Early Review of Fat Mao Noodles”

  1. Good example of a well-balanced blog report/review, Dennis. You love the chef’s other outings but believe each new venture must stand on its own merits. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t be welcomed back.

  2. Wow, a thorough report that transported me to the restaurant. Really sorry to hear the experience was mostly meh. Funny I walked by today after a dental appointment, looked inside, read the menu posted outside and wondered to myself how FM and Ramen Butcher will duke it out. Yes they are different enough but intuitively I sense RB’s bowls are of better value. Time will tell.

    Agree …. charging $12 for a bowl of TWN Beef Noodles takes some cojones in this town. And that “Dan Dan” Noodles, doesn’t really look legit in the pic. Maybe it’ll sneak past unsuspecting Hipsters ?

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