There is a new spot for South East Asian style noodle soups in the heart of Vancouver’s downtown. Located at the Sheraton Wall Centre’s hotel property, the fragrant scent of broth guides you to the threshold.
From the same chef that has brought Longtail Kitchen to New Westminster comes the second location of Fat Mao. And with a new location comes new menu items, only available within. We would try each of these, plus a few other dishes that caught our eye.
Hailing from South East Asia, this is my style of comfort food, if ever given the option I will always choose this cuisine over all others, and as a result cannot help but to be more critical of what it is I am having; comparing it to my extensive experience in Malaysia. Having said that, I can verify that the flavours and technique are authentic, but I feel the dishes themselves are designed to be approachable to a wider audience. This makes for a good introduction, with the ability to self season and adjust to one’s own tastes, utilizing a caddy of sauces and spices kept at each table. This assortment includes a sweet vinegar, Chilli vinegar, Chilli oil, and chilli flakes.
Sadly, the above was a point we did not make note of until after the meal, but one worth highlighting for those who have yet to visit. Had we self-seasoned, the flavours would have popped and landed a lot closer to expectations. Our group of three concurs.
We had to start off with some of their Thai iced tea. The brew is made before hand and is mixed to order, for ease of service.
Everyone’s favourite appetizer, and one that I never miss out on, when available, is Roti with Curry. This is Southeast Asian style flatbread with a curry dipping sauce on the side. The curry was on the sweeter spectrum, as expected, although for my tastes I would have liked the flavour bolder. Something more fulsome to coat and encompass the chewy, eggy roti. The dough I like for its layers and ability to sop up flavour.
Exclusive to the Helmcken location is the Fat Mao Ceviche. Tuna, mussels, herb vinaigrette and yam chips. Not typical to the cuisine type, I found that the dressing had no depth. It ate very lean and the seafood felt not as fresh. You can taste everything when it is only dressed in citrus. It would have been nice if they incorporated some lemon grass, coconut, and/or chilli Thai flavour to this mix. Something to bring it together, and to speak to their theme. Although, I would not think of coming here for this.
You would come for the Braised Beef Noodles though. Braised beef in their aromatic soy broth with Asian celery and lettuce. It is like a cross between Taiwanese beef noodle and pho. Not rich enough for beef noodle with its light broth, so more like pho, given the use of thin noodle. This is the kind of noodle soup that you order for and finish the broth of.
The Nham Ngeaw was an interesting one and only available downtown. This was unique given the use of rich pork ribs & pork blood in this tomato-based soup. The serving is garnished with mustard greens, fried garlic & chilies, and red cotton tree flowers. You actually get your choice of noodles for each bowl, but we asked the server to bring it to us as intended, and this one comes with thick rice vermicelli. The unique broth gave it a herbal flavour with a gamey finish, a sensation that needs to grow on you? and not one I am familiar with. This was also the richer of the two tomato-based sour soups.
The Hot and sour seafood noodles is prepared with shrimp, squid and fish balls, Asian celery, peanuts, and crispy shallots. This was the non gamey version of the noodles above. A one tone flavour that you went back for. It was tangy with the peanut crumb adding texture and depth.
The Khao Soi Chicken Curry was a table favourite. Braised chicken leg in creamy northern Thai-style curry, with pickled mustard greens, flat egg noodles and crispy noodles. The flavour landed as something familiar, but we were just missing the richness of a fine curry. This is definitely one of those plates designed to curate to a larger audience, where the herbs that topped it felt like decoration.
And for dessert I recommend the Shaved Ice, also exclusive to their downtown location. Thai Iced Tea Panna Cotta topped with shaved ice, syrup, and condensed milk. This has more Thai ice tea flavour than our drinks above. It was also sweeter, making for a nice taste to end on. But I would have liked a more finer ice, to better align with the smooth panna cotta.
The Milo Roti was disappointing. It was served without the dusting of milo the menu promised. When we inquired with the staff they explained that they were out of the chocolate drink mix. It would have been nice to know this before the order was taken, or the dish plated. What we should have gotten was Asian-style flat bread with condensed milk and chocolate powder. This was just the same fried and folded dough sheet as above, but with the sweetness of condense milk instead. As is it didn’t fit the bill of dessert, I rather we would have skipped this all together.
Also worth mentioning is their washroom with DragonBallZ posters giving me childhood flash backs, as I had the same one pinned up in my bedroom.
In conclusion, this is a great option for those craving some South East Asian flavours within downtown’s core. An approachable option for some noodle soup, each designed to appeal to a wider mode, and not necessarily the ones honing in on authentic and bold flavours. Glad to have tried it, but not my first choice, although I would come back if a friend invited me to.
Fat Mao Noodles
983 Helmcken St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2S5