Everything will be cooked over an open hearth at Maydan, a restaurant opening Tuesday in the Manhattan Laundry complex. The building on Florida Avenue NW, once a service center for street cars in the late 1800s, had a steel structure from an old steam shaft. It's been repurposed as the exhaust system for the massive hearth.
That exhaust hood is giant, says Rose Previte, who owns Maydan as well as Compass Rose, "because we are going to make so much fire."
More than one cuisine graces the diverse menu, which gathers dishes from the Caucasus, North Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Guests can fill their tables with plates of eggplant dressed with orange blossom water and honey; carrots roasted with lemon and a Moroccan red pepper paste; turmeric- and coriander-seasoned chicken; and leg of lamb spiced with a Syrian blend.
Unsure how to define this eclectic mix of food, served by co-executive chefs Chris Morgan and Gerald Addison, the team landed on Maydan as a descriptor and moniker. Rooted in Arabic, the word means a square or gathering place.
Previte first heard it while living in Moscow, when she and her husband, NPR's David Greene, went to the Ukrainian city of Kiev in early 2010. After some research, she found that "maydan" is used not only in Eastern Europe, but also the Caucasus, Middle East, even India. "Everyone pronounces it differently, but it means the same thing," she says.
Its meaning — and its pervasiveness in the regions that inspired the restaurant's menu — led her to settle on the name.
While preparing this summer for Maydan's opening, the crew traveled across those regions, exploring Georgia, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, while learning recipes and techniques from home cooks and chefs. "We realized that there really is no right or wrong way to eat," Morgan says of their travels. "It’s all there in front of you, and you just create your own meal, with bread or without bread, with this herb or this sauce."
Previte suggests that diners take a similar forget-what-you-know, share-everything approach to Maydan. "Fill your table completely and mix-and-match as you like," she says.
The bar program, run by general manager Said Haddad, includes wine and cocktails on draft to help reduce bottle waste. Cocktails rely on such ingredients and herbs as dried apricots, figs, thyme and sesame. Diners can also expect many nonalcoholic options: The base of each draft cocktail is booze-free, and there will be plenty of tea.
One constant throughout the team's journeys was the plentiful bread served with every meal, and at Maydan, it's the only recipe that's a mash-up of culinary styles. The chefs developed a quick-cooking, partially whole-wheat flatbread that will be made to order in a Georgian tone-style oven. (It's pronounced to-NAY and is similar to an Indian tandoor.)
Served alongside such a wide range of dishes, the bread is meant to tie everything together — much like the gathering space that Maydan aspires to be.
1346 Florida Ave. NW. maydandc.com. Spreads, salads and plates of fire-cooked items, $5 to $16; large-format dishes start at $35.