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First Bite: Fat Mama On Wuyuan Lu

Mar 27, 2015 | 10:00 Fri
Many will remember Fat Mama from the restaurant’s former location in Jing’an. Owner Stefan Lange kept that going for a couple of years, selling salads, pasta, cold-cuts, pizza and breakfasts in a sunny old industrial building on Changping Lu, before closing down last year. The restaurant’s been open in its new location for about two months, and I finally got down to check out the new place this week.

The location is smaller, but makes good use of an old shop-front on Wuyuan Lu, just up the street from Senator Saloon. There’s room for around 20 diners to sit inside, plus a few tables outside. Like the old spot, this one feels slightly industrial and yet cozy. Candles, concrete, white walls and blackboards. Rock music playing low in the background. Well-lit. Reassuringly popular on a Tuesday evening. An ideal neighborhood restaurant for wine and conversation.

The menu keeps things simple with 10 pizzas (68–98rmb), three pastas, and a board of daily specials. During our visit, that included and a rocket and radish salad served with a generous portion of fresh, juicy, pink tuna that had been rolled in cracked pepper and seared. Pizzas are made with homemade marinara sauce and mozzarella imported from the US, and go heavy on authentic toppings – lots of anchovies, capers, prosciutto and pepperoni sausage. No wood-fired oven here, but this is still a decent pie.

Before Fat Mama, Lange was the manager of The Roosevelt Wine Cellar, on the Bund, and he knows a lot about plonk. This said, his approach at Fat Mama is typically unpretentious: diners choose between “Good”, “Better” or “Mama’s Favorite” wine. The Good stuff is 50rmb a glass, the best is 70rmb, with bottles running from 200-300rmb. Or you can just have a conversation with Lange about what you like and he’ll find something that fits. Right now, all the wine is Portuguese, if I understood that correctly.

Lange’s partner in all this is a wine importer – Shanghainese but with a connection to Macao, which explains the Portuguese wine list. They have plans to expand, and it sounds as if they’ve already secured use of the building next door – formerly an unremarkable Japanese restaurant. That’s a larger spot with seating on the roof and Lange wants to open for lunch and brunch once they take it over. There’s also a big cellar underneath Fat Mama, which he says could be used to smoke and age meat, or simply accommodate a large, splashy wine collection.

Big plans, as ever, from Stefan, but for now I like the small, homeliness of Fat Mama, a good-looking, laid-back eatery that cooks what’s fresh and decent at affordable prices. Dinner for two with a bottle of excellent red was less than 500rmb. That’s reason enough to go back.


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