Scorcher reviews: Makan
360 Collins St, Melbourne
I heard a remarkable story about a former colleague this week. I’ll paraphrase but it’s an accurate reflection of the facts.
A boy and a girl were on a date at a highly regarded Thai restaurant in Melbourne. The boy ordered nasi goreng but the waiter refused. “No. I’m not bringing you that. Try harder,” the waiter said. “There are so many fantastic dishes on the menu here, I’m not allowing you to have nasi goreng.”
Whoa! The goreng Gestapo.
And I had that anecdote rattling around in my brain while looking over the menu at Makan, a jazzy new Indonesian restaurant devised by sisters Tasia and Gracia Seger, who triumphed on My Kitchen Rules in 2016.
The food here has some heat in it but it was choosing what to order that had me breaking into a sweat. I could have ordered everything on the menu. Literally. Including the nasi goreng.
But with so many drool-inducing options – from Balinese pork shank with sambal matah and BBQ sticky ribs with sweet soy glaze to soft shell crab steamed buns and classic chicken satay – we agreed that plumping for the nasi goreng would have been an opportunity missed.
The Seger sisters may have come from a reality TV show where producers focus more on the fighting than the food but there is nothing adversarial or gimmicky about Makan.
This is a considered, well-executed and made-for-Melbourne eatery, in a city that does Asian food very well.
The Segers have taken their time to get things right.
The menu has gone through a two-year process of trial and error and has come out the other side firing with a lot of heat and heart.
The space itself is a knockout, with almost a cyberpunk vibe about it. There’s purple neon, polished concrete and a smattering of grey leather seating. During office hours, you’ll enter Makan via the lobby of an office tower; when the suits go home, you’ll find the door under a pink and green sign down an alleyway off Little Collins St.
The colourful-shirted waiters are as nice as Carol Brady on novocaine and prove excellent guides to help you navigate the spicy selection of regional Indonesian dishes.
The double-pronged sambal relish that accompanies the crispy Bali duck really fits the bill. The bird has been cured to within an inch of its life, then confited in a spicy bumbu genep paste and fried to get the skin nice and crackly.
The trippingly tasty beef rendang, a recipe handed down by the girls’ grandma, fell apart like one of Carlton’s third-quarter performances owing to the brisket’s 18-hour cooking time.
‘Makan’ translates as ‘eat’ in Indonesian and I certainly did my fair share of that here.
My eyes and my head wanted to keep ordering but my stomach put the kibosh on such a reckless idea.
This means I’m going to have to go back. Might even have the nasi goreng next time.