“No ramen?” said a disappointed Toki Underground fan upon realizing Erik Bruner-Yang’s pop-up at Hanoi House didn’t involve slurping noodles. “What do you mean no ramen?”
We’d all love a sister Toki—more stools! Shorter waits?—but as with any restaurant family, siblings, rather than twins, make for a more interesting mix. And there are plenty of exciting things happening with Maketto, Bruner-Yang and partner Will Sharp’s mixed retail-dining space bound for H Street in late 2013. While the permanent project will be more of a market than a sit-down restaurant, you can get a taste of what’s to come over the next three months while Bruner-Yang and chef de cuisine James Wozniuk take over the 14th Street spot.
Prawn heads and wagyu lok lak (but no menu)
While Maketto has echoes of Johnny Monis’s Little Serow—servers are similarly hip, the Asian menu is set—dishes draw from a larger pool in Southeast Asia rather than sticking to Thailand. Yang recently returned from his honeymoon in Cambodia and Taiwan, and Wozniuk from a stint in Vietnam. The six-course meal may draw from their travels as well as influences from other countries; we started with spicy green papaya salad and bowls of crispy fried prawn heads before moving on to seared Wagyu beef lok lak (lettuce wraps with vermicelli noodles and herbs) and sour shrimp and pork soup. Two standouts from our meal: amok trey, a Cambodian comfort dish of steamed, curried fish, and tender squid stuffed with sour pork sausage and topped with crispy garlic and cilantro.
The menu is set with no substitutions—even for vegetarians or those with allergies—but there’s still some room to choose. Servers pass the tables several times throughout the meal with carts offering drinks and food. If you’d rather quench your thirst with canned Mr. Brown iced coffee, green tea, or Taiwanese Apple Sidra than beer, summon the cart carrying boxed and bottled beverages. Others roll by dim-sum-style, laden with crispy shrimp rolls, house-made kimchee, pickled cucumbers, and steamed pork buns; dishes run $2 to $10 in addition to the $30 set meal. Customized carts in the shape of bicycles are on the way.
The funky Vietnamese-inspired decor of Hanoi House remains the same—think dim lighting, red-and-black-accented walls, and antique gold mirrors—making it a cool spot to escape the heat. Increase the chill with one of the specialty cocktails, like a tall gin-cucumber concoction or a spiked iced coffee. The latter and a variety of cold beers pair well with the meal and help tame the heat of hotter dishes.
Even colder desserts
Wozniuk says the menu will change every week, if not more often. Hopefully a recurring item—or at least temperature—will be the Taiwanese shaved ice. After all the robust flavors (not to mention scorching weather), it was a refreshing way to wrap up. The ice gets soaked in beet juice and condensed milk for a clean, lightly sweet flavor, studded with fresh peaches and mochi, and scattered with mint.
Online reservations (if you can get one)
You won’t wait hours for a spot here like at Toki; in fact, waiting isn’t an option. Reservations are required, and are currently available through OpenTable on the Hanoi House/Maketto website. Prime-time tables are booked for weeks, so make reservations far in advance or plan to eat with the early birds or after 9.
Maketto at Hanoi House. 2005 14th St., NW. Open at 5 Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.