Atlanta's eastern neighborhood of Decatur, located eight miles from downtown, may have a frequent influx of interesting new eateries, but until recently, the options for Asian cuisine have stayed slim. All that has changed with the exciting emergence of newcomer Makan.
Connected to downtown Decatur's Marriott, the fluidly modern restaurant beams with dark woods, a wide open space and a striking bar. The large patio out front, marked by a sign that looks like it was snagged off the set of King Kong, is equally inviting and will undoubtedly prove popular in fall and spring.
The brainchild of Executive Chef George Yu – longtime former sous chef at popular local mainstay, Ecco – and General Manager Michael Lo, the newly opened restaurant plays homage to Asian street food with its far-reaching menu of comfort dishes.
At Makan, you can pick and choose what you like from the small "banchan" plates, which are rolled around the restaurant on a cart — Photo courtesy of Tuan Huynh / Makan
Makan's named after the Indonesian word for “eat." Here you'll do exactly that, and with exuberance. Each of the dishes speaks to history, family and tested cooking traditions from China, Taiwan and South Korea, while incorporating local and seasonal ingredients, too.
The main menu rotates quarterly, giving diners the chance to sample the whole menu and find their favorites each season, with the banchan ("small plate") options reflecting the availability of fresh ingredients.
There's a joy in the food and in the space that permeates the eating experience. The open kitchen places Yu out front and in full view of the restaurant, closing the gap between chef and visitor and lending to the openness and welcoming quality of the restaurant.
Sure, many of the dishes will not be familiar, but photographs of family and cartoons on the menu, along with tranquil tunes in the air, lend the space a sense of easy cool.
Scoop up pork with Chinese noodles in this aromatic ramen dish — Photo courtesy of Tuan Huynh / Makan
Yes, you can dress up if you want, but you don't have to. Despite the hot location and trendy food and cocktail menu, prices are surprisingly affordable: mains average $15, appetizers are approximately $5 and banchan plates are only $2 each.
Keep it simple and order the ramyun (roasted pork, sun noodles, garlic, kimchi and brilliantly flavorful overnight pork broth) or go adventurous with the Hong Kong noodle soup (roasted whole quail with shrimp and pork stuffed wontons, noodles and broth). Either one is delicious.
The veggie bowl isn't given much of a write-up on the menu, but ask about the ingredients of the day. If they happen to be serving it with noodles that day, and you like even a couple of the ones in there, get it. Swaddled in buttery noodles and teeming with aromatics, this dish makes it hard to order anything else once you've tried it.
Wontons are filled with broth, pork and shrimp and have a subtle spice — Photo courtesy of Tuan Huynh / Makan
The appetizers are also not to be missed. If you don't mind raw fish, get the salt and pepper (a ceviche-style dish of market seafood sliced thin and drizzled with jalapeños, scallions and onions) and the fish (thin raw fish jeweled with roe and Korean chiles, then served in a perilla leaf).
If you get absolutely nothing else, get the housemade wontons and savor them. Yu tested the recipe on his mother and grandmother (restaurant vets and wonton aficionados) before perfecting these blissful bites. You get plenty to split between two people (about four each), but you'll still want more.
Top it all off with a boozy Seoul Slinger cocktail, and you're all set for a delicious escape.