For years, there’s been no dedicated Malaysian restaurant in DC, only hybrid pan-Asian spots where you can seek out mee goreng and nasi lemak. That’s all about the change with the opening of Makan on Sunday, March 8. The Columbia Heights restaurant, which takes over the former Meridian Pint space, comes from from Kendrick Wu and chef James Wozniuk, a six-year veteran of Maketto and Spoken English.
“You really notice the void of not being able to eat [Malaysian food],” says Wozniuk, who began regularly traveling to the country five years ago. “Not having something like this here, and for the food to be so amazing, I can’t wait to share the experience I love with everyone else.”
Wozniuk has been testing out dishes at Thirsty Crow, his gastropub that sits below the 80-seat Makan. While the drinking den will continue to serve a mix of Malaysian and American bar food, the menu upstairs focuses wholly on Southeast Asia.
Larger family-style portions are inspired by nasi campur, “mixed rice” restaurants where diners get a scoop of grains and can mix-and-match meat and seafood dishes, curries, pickles, vegetables, and sambals from sprawling buffets. Here, guests can choose from similar items on the menu like beef rendang, pineapple curry, chili-caramel pork belly, and fried chicken with curry leaves and pickled chilies. There are plenty of options for vegetarians and pescatarians.
Smaller shares round out the menu, including satays, mushroom salad, and net-like crepes with curry. Guests can snack in a roomy front lounge and bar and try cocktails from former Maketto barman Colin Sugalski. Cocktails borrow flavors from the kitchen, such as a pisco drink with starfruit and curry leaf. You’ll also find tikis like a riff on a Junglebird. Makan inherited Meridian Pint’s ample draft lines for a large selection of beers, wines, and ciders—plus their sidewalk patio in warm weather.
But first: dim sum brunch, which will launch in the next few weeks. While dinner is more traditional, Wozniuk is playing with a variety of daytime plates like dumplings, wontons in chili oil, oyster omelets, eggs with sambal, and a popular Malaysian fried chicken dish called nasi ganja.
“They call it that because it’s amazing and addictive, but I won’t say it on the menu because I don’t want people to think they’re eating marijuana,” says Wozniuk.
Makan. 3400 11th St., NW