The International Writers Magazine: Restaurant Reviews: Vancouver
Vancouver, has long been a vibrant cross section of antiques shops,
tacky tourist lofts and hip nightclubs. Cobblestones roads lead
to winding alleys filled with eateries of all ethnicities. Mao
Mao is the latest Asian/fusion cafe on the block, fitting right
into this trendy area.
Set in a heritage building and sandwiched in a row of made-to-measure
dress shops, it is a welcome stopping point after a long days meandering.
into Mao Mao instantly took me back to a café I used to visit
in Portobello Road, London, (think Hugh Grant in Notting Hill, think
Jamie Oliver). Its a place where youd expect to bump into
the next up and coming writer, clacketing away on his laptop, or a photographer
snapping pictures of a model on a location shoot. With its high ceilings,
large windows and warm orange walls, this cozy hideaway has the potential
to become the next hippest hangout in town.
Owner Regis Chung, has exactly this on his mind. With a petition already
started for a large screen TV, he is attracting the same VFS students
who frequent his other restaurant, Tribecca on Seymour and Pender. The
loyal following of Vancouvers fast rising DJs are following suit,
as are the colorful art crowd who have monthly shows at Tribecca.
But the décor and vibe arent the only things that are bringing
in repeat customers. The menu is an adventure of flavors that could
be described as New York deli meets Asian grill. Its eclectic
array of dishes run the gamut from Thai Chicken Curry to Grilled Cheese
Sandwiches. Regis describes it as East meets West. Working in his fathers
restaurant in Mauritius as a child, has clearly influenced the flavors
he uses in his dishes.
started with the vegetable spring rolls with Szechwan pepper mayo.
These little crispy rolls were far superior to any greasy take out.
Perfectly crunchy with a spicy-smooth filling and fiery mayonnaise
sauce they were tantalizing enough to want more but I held back
for the main course. I ordered the most popular item on the menu
Thai Chicken Curry. Creamy, sweet and delicately spiced with
chilies, and surrounded by fresh grilled vegetables, it is mouth
wateringly addictive and plain to see why its so popular.
Soups are extravagant bowls of thick creamy stews. My partner had
the soup of the day, lentil, chicken and leek with a slab of marble
bread - a complete meal in itself.
item was presented with the attention to detail and artistic flair of
a five star chef. Regiss days at the Cannery, Fish House and The
Four Seasons have clearly left their mark. You may be dining in a casual
atmosphere, but quality of product and service is clearly paramount.
The ingredients are top notch. Fresh turkey breast, classic smoked meat
from Montreal and wild salmon all at reasonable prices ($4.25
- $7.40). Chinese, Creole and East Indian flavors make an appearance
on the menu, with other items such as chicken satays, smoked salmon
wonton crisps, vegetarian curry and five spiced beef stew.
Our server was a trendily dressed fashion designer-in-the-making, who
offered friendly chit chat, gladly pointing out the finer details of
the menu items.In the evening Mao Mao becomes a lively lounge when club
DJs spin the night away against the back drop of the red-brick wall
in the back and surrounded by cubby holes filled with tables and large
chairs and a mysterious staircase leading halfway up the wall.
Regis describes it as "A one stop shop. A place where you can have
a meal, be entertained, enjoy great crowds and hang out 3-4 times a
week, and its not going to cost you an arm and a leg. You have to have
a little bit of humor for whatever you do. You cant take things
too seriously these days. The décor and atmosphere of Mao Mao
reflects this. Other people have said its a beautiful little place,
quaint and comfortable. It reminds me of New York, where warehouses
have been turned into offices and apartments. Thats what Gastown
is becoming - a very exclusive area."
Private parties of any kind are welcome - where buffet or sit down menus
or a la carte options are offered.
So whether its a foaming cappuccino in a New York minute, or a
languid martini and meal in a lively party atmosphere, check out this
chameleon-like café it offers a taste for all.
Mao Mao is at 307 West Cordova, at the corner of Cambie across from
the Cambie Hotel. Hours are Monday-Friday 11-3 for lunch and Thursday-Sunday
6-12 for dinner.
Tel: 604 974 0626
© Jenny Brown March 2004
all rights reserved