While some chefs and restaurateurs dream of opening large, upscale restaurants, Vancouver’s Angus An wants to do the opposite. The executive chef and owner of Maenam and Longtail Kitchen plans to open a small, casual noodle bar, Fat Mao (217 East Georgia Street), this spring.
“I think there’s a huge hole in the market for fast food, but fast food doesn’t have to be junk food,” An told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview on February 26. “You can go in for a bowl of noodles for 25 minutes and get out of there, and the noodles are made with care.”
Fat Mao isn’t An’s first encounter with “fast food”. In 2013, four years after opening Kitsilano’s award-winning Maenam restaurant, An launched Longtail Kitchen within New Westminster’s River Market. The small eatery, which serves Thai street-food dishes, requires diners to order their meals at the counter.
“I think there’s a need for food that’s quick and easy but really, really good,” An said. “I want to open smaller places. That way, it’s easier for me to execute them, and I think that’s what people want.”
The Chinatown noodle bar, which is scheduled for an April opening, will offer up to six soup noodles that touch on Taiwanese, Chinese, and Thai cuisine. Many of the recipes will riff on the Taiwanese-born chef’s childhood favourites.
“We’re going to do a braised beef noodle, a beef shin noodle, and we’re also going to do dan dan mian,” he described of the popular spicy Sichuan noodle dish. “We’re also going to do dry sesame noodles that are vegetarian with pickled vegetables. On the Thai side of things, we’re going to have braised duck noodles and khao soi which is a curry noodle.”
Despite the recent opening of Ramen Butcher just a few steps away, An assured that Fat Mao’s menu would not overlap.
“Even before we found out that they were opening, I had already decided that we weren’t going to do any pho or ramen,” he said. “There are enough places that serve those two noodles.”
Awaiting a building permit, An is hoping to start construction of Fat Mao in early March. At launch, the 25-seat restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner. With three restaurants on the go, An still plans on spending the majority of his time at Maenam.
“Operations like Longtail and Fat Mao require a lot of my attention when we first open and maybe up to six months from when we open, but it’s a small enough menu,” An explained. “I’m not going to be at all three places every single day, plus [be a father to] a seven year old kid. The idea is to be able to think more like a chef-restaurateur than just a chef.”