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Chef duo brings refined sensibilities to Kitsilano

Mak n Ming elevates dining options on Yew Street
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Squash Mont Blanc

Mak N Ming

1629 Yew St.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm until closed.

The little stretch of Yew that rises up from Cornwall, across from Kits Beach, hasn’t always been kind to restaurants of a certain type. While the sushi spots and Starbucks have lasted for a decade or three, and places like Nook and Chewie’s seem to be packing in the crowds, anything with a more refined sensibility tends to get stomped out fairly quickly.

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Chefs and partners of Mak n Ming; Amanda My Cheng and Makoto Ono - Dan Toulgoet

It was a surprise, therefore, to hear that chefs and business/life partners Makoto Ono and Amanda Cheng opened up their new restaurant in the heart of this casual strip, in a tiny space formerly occupied by a nondescript Thai eatery.

Mak N Ming (named after the couple; “Mak” is short for Makoto and “Ming” is Cheng’s proper given name) isn’t a fussy concept, despite the pedigrees of the chefs. Ono formerly ran Pidgin in Gastown, opened a Japanese restaurant in Beijing, and worked for luminaries like Marco Pierre White and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Cheng launched Pidgin with Ono, along with business partner Julius Dong, and has also run her own food business in Hong Kong, which is where she originally met Ono.

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Inside Mak n Ming's Yew Street restaurant - Dan Toulgoet

The room is a study in calm contrasts. Red cedar panels the walls and booths, setting off the marble-top tables nicely. Vertical light strips offer a minimalist glow that reflects off the central storage table, at which wines are poured. There is a sense of balance in the layout of the tiny room (28 seats max). A suggestion of yin and yang.

It’s an apt reference, as it seems a good descriptor for how Ono and Cheng work in the Lilliputian kitchen at the back. Ono handles most of the savoury, while Cheng takes care of the sweets and baking. The truly excellent and small wine list is run by sommelier Roger Maniwa (formerly of Hawksworth), and, while I would have liked to see more by-the-glass selections, I couldn’t fault the quality or perspicacity of the list.

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Humbolt Squid Rutabaga - Dan Toulgoet


The menu here offers two options: a three-course “demi” for $54 or a six-course chef’s tasting for $78. The demi is actually not a tasting menu, it’s a fully-coursed meal that covers a “first bite,” starter, main and dessert. That first bite was an amuse of puffed brown rice cracker smeared with a dollop of onion sour cream based on a duck confit broth, then topped with caramelized onions and trout roe. Each of the elements was individually lovely, although the thickness of the rice cracker overshadowed the delicate flavours of the roe and cream. A starter one night of Humboldt squid with rutabaga and seaweed was excellent, but the main of duck leg confit, wrapped in purple cabbage and sided with a massive ladle of lentils and caramelized onion, was overwhelming. The confit was delightful, as was its lightly-steamed wrapper, but the enormous mound of bland lentils had us begging for breathing room before dessert.

On another night, I tried the chef’s tasting. The same first bite made an appearance, as did the duck confit, albeit this time also served with a large slab of breast and an optional slice of seared foie gras. Without the pound of lentils on the plate, this worked much better, despite the richness of the breast and the foie.

Apart from the duck, most of the dishes offer a subtle range of flavours. Textural contrasts are much more noticeable. The crunch of farro in a dashi-based ochazuke (a type of soup) is pleasant and hearty. Compressed celery on a vanilla pudding (similar to a panna cotta) offers a lovely crunch. The six-course menu includes two desserts, the second of which was a squash version of the classic chestnut Mont Blanc. The delicate flavour of the vegetable was almost obliterated by the light chocolate of the cake at the base, although the meringue on the side of the plate was perfect, with a paper-thin crispy shell and an almost-creamy interior.

I’d like to see some of the flavours stand out more, but an exercise in delicacy is also appreciated, especially when it results in delights like Cheng’s version of pain au lait, a milky, fluffy, flaky white rectangular bun that pulls apart like a croissant and is topped with crunchy, salty nori and black sesame. It’s so delectable I almost ignore the very pleasant sunchoke soup it accompanies.

Mak N Ming seems a bit out of place in this neighbourhood, but here’s hoping that residents (and the larger dining public) give it a chance. 


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Mak n Ming store front on Yew street - Dan Toulgoet

All ratings out of five stars.
★: Okay, nothing memorable
★★: Good, shows promise
★★★: Very good, occasionally excellent
★★★★: Excellent, consistently above average
★★★★★: Awe-inspiring, practically perfect in every way


Food: ★★★★
Service: ★★★★
Ambiance: ★★★★
Value: ★★★★
Overall: ★★★★

Anya Levykh is a freelance food, drink and travel writer who covers all things ingestible. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.