Maketto

Please forgive this very late-to-the-party review of Maketto, an H Street staple that I was absolutely convinced was all hype and no substance. I was so determined of this perspective that I haven’t even thought to try it since I had some underwhelming egg rolls from a Sofi student loan-hosted party there more than five years ago (side note: I attended that Sofi party as the +1 of my friend Amanda and there seemed to be no actual reason for it–it wasn’t about networking or selling people loans or some other MLM-style brainwash. Many years on, I’m still not sure why they threw a party for their lendees, but I did come away from it with a very soft t-shirt!)

But anyway. They are on Grubhub.

For the third night in a row, I ordered way too much food. When a restaurant says “small plate,” it’s hard to know how small is small.

Pictured above: scallion pancakes and the cauliflower in peanut sauce, both decidedly not small. The pancakes were unlike any I’d had before–much more fried pancake than scallion, with a fluffy, battery inside and crisp, greasy exterior. I can’t fault this. It was hard to put down. The cauliflower bordered on mushy, but was so delicious in spicy, rich, peanut sauce with those beautiful, crispy onions. It turned into great leftovers too.

The pork bao were like the San Francisco dim sum bao of my childhood with that same soft, slightly sweet, cakey outside and the dark fruit flavor of the pork inside. I slathered it with hoisin too, which never hurts.

The “reach” small plate was the pidan tofu. In all honesty, it was predictably bland (it’s just sliced tofu), and even the sauce doesn’t dress it up all that much. Chilies and cilantro are great, but they can only do so much. It’s definitely edible, particularly for a tofu person like yours truly, but not a must-have. It comes with two halves of a fermented egg. This may have been the line on the menu that grabbed my attention. The fermented egg is…intense. But the more I eat, the less offensive it feels? It’s not for the faint of heart.

Finally, we ended with the Cambodian noodle salad with chicken. It was definitely large and in charge, and well worth your money if you are into that kind of thing. It came with fish sauce dressing and lots of crispy chicken thigh, pickled carrot and daikon, and loads of fresh herbs, but is really just a cold noodle salad. A great choice for your unadventurous friend.

Price: $30 per person.

Bottom line: Fine, fine. I was wrong to judge Maketto so harshly. Like, very wrong. Stick to the really interesting and experimental sounding small plates and you can’t go wrong. And if your student lender decides to host a party there, you should definitely jump at the chance, t-shirts or no t-shirts.

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