After returning from a trip to Thailand, a friend invited me to sample the Pan-Asian cuisine at the latest pop-up restaurant in the area, Maketto 1351, a preview of the new Washington, D.C. restaurant being opened by Toki Underground's Erik Bruner-Yang. We arrived at the bottom floor of Shoo-Fly at Belvedere Square on a Friday evening, and what we were told was going to be a 45-minute wait thankfully turned into a five-minute one.
Although they had an interesting selection of cocktails to choose from, including Vietnamese Ca Phe Slush ($8)—Vigilante Cold Brew (coffee), Jamaican dark rum, and coconut condensed milk—and a Kimchi Sour ($11)—a rum drink with fermented peppers, ginger, and Kombucha—we chose a Duckpin ($5) and Hitochino ale ($6), which was like an IPA but lighter and with added notes of malt, pear, and citrus.
It was a struggle to read the menu in our dimly lit corner, and the staff attempted to remedy the situation by bringing us a candle, but it failed to help much. But this being a pop-up restaurant and all, there's no use in complaining about the service or the space.
We decided to start with the laab ($8) and the Sichuan puff bread ($6), which is sort of like a perfectly textured pita bread seasoned with pepper corns and served with a Thai peanut sauce. The Sichuan puff bread came piping hot and full of a peppery flavor that was complemented by the salty, nutty sauce. Although it contained shrimp paste, most of the flavor came from the peanuts and oyster sauce. The star of the evening, in my friend's opinion, was the laab, a dish of pork, chiles, basil, and toasted rice powder, served with lightly pickled vegetables to calm the palate. He felt this was comparable to the food he gotten on the streets of Bangkok. At a minimum, it was on par in terms of spiciness.
For our entrees we ordered the noum pachouk ($10), a Cambodian curry soup of noodles and Porgy, and the Hainan chicken and rice dish ($10), with tofu instead of chicken. The noum pachouk was a great value in that it was plentiful and delicious, with a deep, rich, complex broth that didn't overpower the fish and perfectly cooked noodles. Because we subbed in tofu for the Hainan chicken and rice, it didn't have the nuoc cham, a peppery fish sauce, so the dish was a bit dry. This was literally just fried tofu chunks with plain rice. Luckily, we still the the sauce from the Sichuan puff bread, so most of the flavor gained was from the same peanut sauce. Thank goodness we had asked them not to clear the plate.
We would definitely come back and try other things on the menu, especially the starters, and luckily Maketto 1351 will be here until the end of this week.