I’m back, baby! As summer winds down, I’m back with a new post about the latest pop-up restaurant, Maketto (at Hanoi House). Chef/Owner Erik Bruner-Yang, also of Toki Underground, and his crew have been testing out dishes at Hanoi House to see which will be featured on Maketto’s menu once the restaurant opens in its permanent location — somewhere on H Street NE — later this year. In that regard, let’s call this post an open letter to the chef, containing my views on which dishes I think are keepers and which seriously need to be reconsidered.
The Maketto pop-up offers a pre-fixe menu ($30) of dishes served family style. Diners may order additional dishes a la carte ($2 each) via the roving dim sum cart.
The first dish was the bok lahong (Khmer papaya salad), which packs a lot of heat and is served with a side of raw vegetables to tame the flames. Its favor profile is consistent with Southeast Asian cuisine — salty fish sauce, sour lime, hot chilies, and a touch of sweetness — and I found it quite delicious. The second dish was the Taiwanese Pig’s Blood Cake. I’m sure there are people out there who would draw blood for a chance to taste this (pun intended), but I don’t think this dish will be a crowd pleaser. For me, it was the equivalent of blood flan. And I hate flan. And while I like blood sausage and my steak so pink that it’s still mooing, there is such a thing as too much blood. It’s called pig’s blood cake. My dining companion agreed. I took one bite and my stomach lurched — a warning shot across the bow — informing me that eating more would come with consequences.
After cleansing my palate from the bowl of unlimited rice, I was ready for the third dish — Samlah Curry Trei (Khmer Coconut Fish Curry). It was undoubtedly one of my favorite dishes of the night and probably one of the best curries I’ve had. I don’t know what else to say other than I hope this dish makes it onto Maketto’s menu permanently.
The fermented tofu stir-fry with black bean paste was interesting. The flavors were a bit unbalanced. The dish could have used some acidity, salt, and/or sweetness to balance out the overpowering flavors of the oil and bean paste.
I enjoyed the assorted charcuterie, which included duck liver pate, among other tasty treats. The last savory dish was the sour sausage and Laap sausage, topped with a poached egg and a tomato relish. The creaminess of the egg yolk combined with the savory sausage and citrus of the tomato relish made me very happy.
We snagged the duck wing and pork bao from the dim sum cart, which were both delicious, in my opinion. My friend disagreed when it came to the duck wing. He found the glaze on the duck wing to be off-putting.
Last but not least was dessert, which was composed of chunks of soft tofu swimming in a sea of tea and ginger and topped with “tea ice” and boiled peanuts. It was a disappointing and unsatisfying end to the meal. The tofu hadn’t absorbed any of the “soup” flavors and therefore tasted like …. tofu. The tea and ginger soup was watered down and flavorless. I was so depressed by it that I went home, sliced off two discs of frozen, homemade cookie dough, popped them in the oven and properly ended my evening with two fresh-baked chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and peppermint tea.
If you want to check out the pop-up for yourself, you can make reservations with Hanoi House on OpenTable through October.
2005 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
Hours: Mon-Sat, opens 5pm