Well Bitches, we’ve done it. We made our pilgrimage to the hipster Mecca of D.C., Maketto. It’s no secret that D.C.’s coolest residents have gone crazy for chefs Erik Bruner-Yang and James Wozniuk’s Taiwanese/Cambodian restaurant inside a communal marketplace on H Street (I guess this review makes it mainstream. Sorry y’all). But it’s easy to see why people might want to keep it a secret — it’s just that great.
We arrived at noon for dim sum (a.k.a the Maketto version of Sunday brunch). Maketto doesn’t take reservations for Sunday dim sum, so be prepared to wait. Trust me, the wunderkind behind Toki Underground knows something about food that’s worth the wait.
But while you do, we recommend taking a tour of the place. It’s a shared space with a restaurant, bar, clothing store, and coffee shop all in one. You can get your food, street fashion, and caffeine and/or alcohol fix in one spot. It’s a wonderfully airy, modern setting. You’ll see funky wall murals, clean lines, and a not-quite family-friendly vending machine in the open courtyard. In nice weather, it’s a contemporary Instagrammer’s dream.
Since we were invited in to try the restaurant, we were seated immediately in the front of the restaurant and quickly dug into the menu. First, drinks. Andrew had a cup of green tea from the coffee shop upstairs before requesting the Maketto Bloody Mary. The tea was good, but he felt the house-made Bloody mix was weak in flavor. I decided to forego my usual mimosa for a Dram Stoker’s Daqula. The white rum, bitter aperitif, allspice dram, and blood orange concoction intrigued me. Unfortunately, it was much too bitter and I could barely finish half of it. I do appreciate the eclectic beer menu however, and would definitely order from it during happy hour.
After our delightful server gave us an overview of the dim sum menu, we settled on several dishes, which came out as they were ready. First was the rice noodle crepe with roasted pork. I appreciated the brunch-y twist and texture of the rice noodle. The roasted pork had a nice kick of spice to it.
Our server recommended the crispy fried dumpling with braised beef. The dumpling reminded me of a Spanish croquette more than your typical Asian dumpling. Think of a deep fried mashed potato bite, surrounded by beautiful braised ground beef. It was definitely a nice change of pace.
Next was the Taiwanese fried chicken. Yup, Bruner-Yang’s famous dish made it’s way to the dim sum menu and we’re damn glad it did. Served in a larger portion of two boneless breasts, with a side of toast, the fried chicken was the stand out of the meal. I could eat the crispy skin for days, but the chicken was very moist and flavorful as well – a true sign of good fried chicken. The cilantro and peppers add to a sauce that gives the dish a unique chicken and waffles feel, but with a Taiwanese twist. I’d definitely consider it an early contender for Best Bites 2016.
My other favorite dish was the char siu bao, basically barbeque pork-filled steamed buns. The bao was incredible – light, flaky without being dry. It’s a lovely case for the smoky, succulent pork inside. This dish gets bonus points for being just as delicious after being reheated the next day too (I had to! We ordered too much!).
And because we had to try something vegetarian, we went with the vegetarian gyoza. Like potstickers filled with spinach. However, the dumplings were a bit dry. That was easily remedied by the soy sauce mixture which punched up the spice. We both decided we’d order with a meat filling next time.
For dessert our server surprised us with Frenchie’s egg custard tart. It’s not something I would have ordered on my own, but it was the perfect end to the meal. This traditional Chinese tart is composed of a creamy egg custard in a pastry crust — so simple, but sweet. In fact, it was so good I forgot to take a picture before we devoured it in two bites. We love to leave a little mystery – now you’ll have to go to experience it for yourself!
I couldn’t leave without my caffeine fix, so I grabbed a hot chai latte upstairs before we left. I can’t wait to go back for a beer and dinner on the rooftop patio this spring. Maketto is a must-try stop on the rejuvenated H Street corridor.
The Bitches say: A-. The flavors of dim sum are incredible, inventive, and stand out in a cool, communal marketplace. Only the cocktails knock it down a notch.
Maketto serves dim sum on Sundays 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (202) 838-9972