When chefs Amanda Cheng and Makoto Ono met in Hong Kong a few years ago, they were running their own respective food businesses in the same building.
Fast-forward to present day, the duo have travelled around the world and gathered some culinary inspiration, relocated back to Vancouver together, and participated in launching PiDGiN in Gastown.
Their latest venture was opening Mak N Ming (Mak is Makoto shortened, and Ming is Cheng’s Chinese name) at 1629 Yew Street, alongside business partner Julius Dong (also from PiDGiN).
This new Kitsilano establishment is a mere 850-square-feet space, previously occupied by Thai Star Restaurant.
As soon as one steps in, it’s obvious that a lot of thought and time has been put into renovating the interior.
Vancouver company Scott & Scott Architects (Torafuku, Kin Kao, Mister Ice Cream) were brought on to design the space, using a combination of wood, marble, and leather elements to create a simple but intricate, cool yet sophisticated vibe.
“My style of food may read simple or look simple, but there is a lot of depth,” explained Ono in an interview with the Straight. “And I think that ties in with the interior design as well.”
Ono’s style of cooking is unique—his restaurant will focus on offering dishes that balance French and Japanese flavours.
“I always think of French cuisine as classic and its philosophy of seasonal ingredients is very similar to Japanese cuisine,” said Ono. “To me, it just kind of made sense that way.”
Does that mean this restaurant serves fusion food? Not necessarily.
“He’s not trying to blend those cultures together because it comes very naturally, so it’s very subtle,” Cheng told the Straight. “I think Makoto has a very light touch with it, and sometimes you can’t even tell if it’s French or Japanese.”
The 28-seat restaurant greets guests with two different tasting menus: a demi and chef’s menu.
Some of the featured creations include crispy chicken & oyster with grains and broccoli; mushroom chawanmushi; pork chop with black truffle and cauliflower; and Dungeness crab noodle soup.
Cheng is in charge of creating the pastries (she owned a popular dessert bar in Hong Kong), so those with a sweet tooth are in for a treat.
The menus finish off with sweet creations, which currently include hibiscus pear pavlova as well as pistachio & honey cigar with milky hot chocolate.
Don’t expect these dishes to stay put for long, because the chefs plan on changing the menus a little more often than seasonal.
“We want people to feel full after they eat here… it’s a different concept menu,” said Dong. “The demi menu is something more casual with more approachable dishes and bigger portions.”
Mak N Ming brings something new to the culinary scene in the Kitsilano neighbourhood, and the team behind this restaurant want to see it succeed in ways beyond the norm.
“The food that [Makoto] comes up with is not just to please diners and fill seats, he wants to introduce flavours that people maybe don’t know they like,” said Cheng. “He’s not trying to show off, but we are just trying to elevate the Vancouver dining scene.”
It’s true that Vancouver is used to the casual-comfort establishments, and Dong recognizes that there is nothing wrong with these homey food spots. But the trio are aiming to bring something more to the city’s dining culture.
“I feel like Vancouver’s dining scene is at a turning point, and it has to go one way or another,” said Dong. “I think there needs to be some room to move upmarket a little, and hopefully we can fill in that niche.”
Take a look at the photos below for a glance inside the new restaurant.