Come mid-July, Atlantans will be able to order Asian street food in Decatur with the opening of Makan in the Courtyard Marriott at 130 Clairemont Avenue. Executive chef George Yu, formerly of Ecco, says he'll serve small plates, noodle bowls, and family-style meals for lunch and dinner—and likely late night.
Yu and his business partner Michael Lo have been connecting with local farmers and purveyors to source ingredients, as well as doing test runs at a series of pop-ups at Parker’s on Ponce. “It’s been great. We’ve sold out every one,” Yu says.
We spoke with the duo about their menu and their bar program.
Tell me about the concept.
Lo: It’s about the food that we love (street food and comfort food that you’d find in the night markets and noodle stalls of Asia—specifically Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea). [Those areas] are known for very family-friendly, communal dining and a convivial atmosphere. We’ll show that with large-format family meals and with the casualness to the food and the environment.
What’s your background?
Lo: We’re both second-generation restaurateurs. I’m from Hong Kong and southern China, while George is from Taiwan, but we both married Korean women.
What’s on the menu?
Yu: Small plates that play on street food and market-driven bites like wontons in spicy oil and pork buns—shareable items for two to four people. We’ll [also] have individual rice and noodle bowl entrees. Highlights [include]: Korean seafood pancake, Taiwanese five-spice fried chicken, shrimp and pork spicy wontons, pork belly buns, salt and pepper shrimp, Taiwanese ox tail beef noodle soup, pork raymun (Korean version of ramen), Hong Kong roasted quail, shrimp wonton, noodle soup, braised pork belly rice bowl, and Korean seafood and tofu stew.
It seems like everyone’s making ramen now.
Yu: They are doing the Japanese version. I am doing a Korean version similar to the ramen in the grocery store so the flavor is reminiscent of childhood, but it won’t be processed. We’re using fresh noodles instead of rehydrated packaged noodles. Our ramen has a pork and chicken broth with kimchi and other Korean elements to it. Koreans have a huge noodle soup culture.
Tell me about the large-format meals.
Yu: You may get a whole roasted duck with the wraps, sauces, sides, soups, and rice; or Korean bossam (pork belly), Korean short ribs, Chinese braised pork belly, Chinese fried chicken, or Korean fried chicken with kimchi and everything. It’s meant for four to six people to share, and you'll have to put in that order when you make the reservation. We’ll probably only do a couple of those per night.
You mentioned a focus on service. Will the atmosphere be pretty high-end?
Yu: It’s more high-end than you’d expect from your typical Asian restaurant, but because it’s inspired by outdoor markets, it’s casual and approachable. The closest thing I’d compare to it is how one feels at Leon’s Full Service or the General Muir.
What will the space look like?
Lo: There’s an eight-person chef’s table that overlooks an open kitchen, and a sixteen-foot communal table in the bar area. The front door is a large wooden gate that you’d find in a Chinese or Korean courtyard, and there’s a lot of burnt wood. There’s an early 1900s China influence for the art—murals and paintings. The patio is huge—sixty seats—and it will feel like a night market.
What’s the plan for the bar program?
Lo: We’re very focused on local and craft regional beers. We’ll have Three Taverns and Wild Heaven on tap. For wine, we lean more toward Old World, European brands, and smaller vineyards. We’ll have about a dozen by the glass and another dozen by the bottle.
Who will be behind the bar?
Lo: Front of house manager Damiano Pak. He has experience at Bluepointe, Ecco, and Fig Jam. He’ll be making craft cocktails with some with Asian accents. We’ll also be introducing the Asian drinking culture: makgeolli (an unfilitered Korean beer-type product), Korean soju, and other Asian spirits.