I have often griped about not enough good Mexican food in D.C., and just last week wrote about a new spot that was finally satisfying my cravings for south-of-the-border deliciousness. I similarly complain about not enough diversity in Asian food choices in D.C., with an over-emphasis on Japanese food and a dearth of representation of all the other delicious cuisines across the continent. Well, who knew the year of Covid would be when we’d see the advent of some new and exciting Asian restaurants opening in D.C.! Just this summer, Makan opened on 11th Street, bringing the aromatic, herbal, spicy food of Malaysia to our city.
The venue has plenty of outdoor seats to utilize this summer, just be sure to make a reservation. The menu is small, but each dish is brimming with authentic Malaysian ingredients and layers of flavor and texture. For a starter that is easy to share, I highly recommend the paneer satay or the green mango salad. The satay features hunks of smoky skewered paneer accompanied by a savory, nutty peanut sauce and the salad is spicy and refreshing at the same time.
From there, dive in to the rest of the menu. The selda cina is a dream; with crunchy celery lettuce swimming in a yellow bean gravy that has a sweet and savory flavor profile. Tofu adds an element of meatiness and shallots bring a garlicky touch. We also loved the sambal belado brinjal, where eggplant is cooked with gingery galangal, sweet onions and citrusy lime leaf. The combination of flavors simply explode in your mouth. Dry mushroom curry with fragrant lemongrass is earthy and heady with coconut and nutmeg, and the curry noodle soup with tofu will be ideal once the weather cools down.
Don’t skip the “small additions” section of the menu; these small condiments bring even more flavor to your meal. Acar nenas, for example, is a spicy pineapple pickle where the marriage of ginger and pineapple is a match made in heaven. The house sambal is spicy, sweet and tart all at once, and the acar limau is an eruption of sweet and citrusy notes from key limes and raisins.
For dessert, one option is a sphere of tapioca that comes in a puddle of rich, silky coconut pandan cream, and is drizzled with sweet palm sugar syrup. Roti, with a coconut cream custard as a dipping sauce, is a heartier and sweeter choice if that is what you are craving. My recommendation? Get them both. Always!
3400 11th Street NW Washington, D.C.
Tuesday-Friday: 5pm – 10pm
Saturday: 11am – 10pm