When we last checked with Erik Bruner-Yang, the Toki Underground chef wasn't exactly sure when Maketto, his food-and-retail partnership with Will Sharp of the Durkl clothing line, would open to the public. Early summer rains had delayed construction crews a "little bit" from the scheduled October debut.
It seems the Maketto concept — a kind of Western interpretation of the night markets of Taiwan and Cambodia — has hit another snag, said Bruner-Yang. Maketto, the owner said, had to resubmit its plans for a water permit after the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority apparently told the partners they'd have to tap into a new 12-inch main that runs down the middle of H Street NE.
Previously, Bruner-Yang said Maketto was going to tap into a 3-inch water line in the alley behind the business at 1351 H St. NE. The revamped plan requires Maketto to tunnel under the trolley tracks on H Street to reach the water main, a project that Bruner-Yang said will run about $100,000.
(Incidentally, a spokesman for DC Water said that it "never reviewed an application to tap" into the old line in the alley, which dates back to 1910 and is too small for the type of water pressure needed for Maketto. In June, however, DC Water did approve an application for Maketto to tap into the water main under H Street, the spokesman said.)
Regardless of how it happened, the water-pipe project has thrown a Brobdingnagian wrench into Maketto's timeline. Bruner-Yang is now hoping for a December launch.
“It’d be a nice Christmas present,” he said. “But I don’t want to commit to anything.”
In the meantime, the Maketto pop-up at Hanoi House continues until Oct. 31. You can make reservations for the family-style, prix-fixe dinner via OpenTable. If you haven't been to the pop-up or "residency" yet, you're in for an original and rather unorthodox dinner, a sort of overview of Cambodian (and some Chinese) cooking presented Little Serow-style, with no pretense but plenty of creativity from Bruner-Yang and chef de cuisine James Wozniuk.
True to its Asian night-market influences, the food often arrives with little attention to contemporary plating techniques. My fried rockfish head with coconut curry, for example, was just that: a sizable slab of fried fish, maw and all, slathered in sauce. The only efficient way to eat the thing was to tear into it with your hands. It was a messy and delicious experience.
So what happens to Hanoi House after Maketto's exit? It appears that Bruner-Yang will continue to direct the menus there. "We've worked with Erik in the past, from the U Street Music Hall to this," says Ian Hilton, operations director for Hanoi House.
"We really like working with him," Hilton continues. "We're going to have some sort of relationship in that space going forward. We just don't know what it is yet."
"It really depends on what Erik's bandwidth looks like and what he wants to do," Hilton adds. "We don't want him to have too many balls in the air."
A previous version of the post referred to the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority by its former abbreviation, WASA.