It’s a retail stop! And a coffee bar with pastries! And — best of all — a Southeast Asian restaurant from the dude behind Toki Underground!
While Maketto took its sweet time opening on H Street NE (Toki chef Erik Bruner-Yang had initially forecast an early 2013 due date), once customers see the breadth of the idea, they’re likely to forget having been teased for so long.
Bruner-Yang partnered with Will Sharp of the Durkl streetwear line to create an all-day, two-story, indoor-outdoor venue that opens with mostly menswear (sorry, ladies), a dining room and an al fresco communal table on the ground floor and climbs to a java joint. It’s run by local roaster Chris Vigilante, with baked goods supplied by Frenchie’s Artisan Pastries & Desserts.
An exterior catwalk connects to a deck that has “rent me for a cocktail party” written all over it. “There aren’t too many public spaces where you can just go and do nothing,” says Bruner-Yang of the deck, which is now the site for free yoga on Sundays at 4 p.m. The open-air setting will gain a regular Sunday farm market sometime in May, showcasing some of the same ingredients used at Maketto.
Not since Rose’s Luxury began dishing out pork and litchi salad has a new place to eat garnered such broad exposure. “Look at you, on H Street!” one suit says to another in Maketto’s spare white-bricked dining room. The bar-of-soap-sized menu opens like an accordion. One side lists cocktails and drinking vinegars in flavors including hibiscus and pumpkin. The other divides dishes by small or large “format,” everything prepared in an exhibition kitchen beyond the courtyard.
A green salad with tamarind dressing is a modest pleasure. Pickled vegetables, on the other hand, deliver sparks: sour carrots, turnips fermented in buckwheat tea and butternut squash flavored with shrimp paste. Red curry soup swells with a whole baby chicken, shredded cabbage, a fistful of tropical herbs and julienned ginger. Waves of heat wash over the tongue as you take it all in. Whole fried red snapper looks like a float, festooned as the fish is with pickled peppercorns and both pickled and fried garlic slices. (Only local and sustainable fish are featured.) The most expensive entree, an American Wagyu bao platter, costs $32, not bad for a party of steamed buns presented in an arc with slices of rich beef, tangy shredded cabbage, hoisin and more.
Instead of ordering dessert, I opt to shop. The wares — shoes and sharpies on street level, grooming supplies and backpacks on the second — are curious.
The novelties include an outdoor vending machine with sundries ranging from lucky cat charms to condoms. This early fan of the restaurant can’t imagine anyone pushing the button for item A3, which issues . . . Pepto Bismol.
1351 H St. NE. 202-838-9972. maketto1351.com. Entrees, $12 to $32.