But in a good way, Mak Chin’s offers a pair of hot venues.
Mak Chin’s is a casual restaurant serving pan-Asian fare in a modified self-serve fashion—diners order at the counter, but servers bring food to the table (think Pei Wei). Mak Chin’s is also a stylish bar catering to the lean and thirsty twenty-somethings that are increasingly drawn to the rapidly gentrifying Washington/Shepherd district. (Fortunately, the bar side seems to have shed any lingering frat-boy-on-a-bender karma in the redo of its old Richard Head’s location—hint: try the diminutive of the first name to get the full back-slapping impact of the popularly used moniker for that watering hole.)
At Mak Chin’s, the menu created by executive chef Paul Chu encompasses a range of culinary flavors—principally Chinese with some Thai and Japanese and a little Korean tossed into the mix. Some dishes tend to arrive on the mild side, which pleased my tender-palated companion. Fare can always be spiced up with items from a condiment bar in the dining room (think Café Express): hot sauce, jalapeños, kimchee, ginger, pickles, mustard, and more.
Specialties include Mango Sweet ‘n’ Sour, which we preferred with the abundant, plump shrimp (chicken is also available), and Flaming Beef, slices of garlicky tenderloin atop a bed of lettuce and vegetables. We also particularly liked one of the starters, the Chicken Lettuce Wraps, which are distinguished by the welcome addition of crispy jicama amid the chopped chicken breast.
The place looks smart, especially because of the abundance of framed Asian movie posters and, we presume, photos of glamorous female movie stars. The bar side of Mak Chin’s is more intimate and darker than the restaurant side, with a sleek, curving bar, plush couches, and chairs pulled close together. A patio sits right on Shepherd but is screened from the street by a concrete-block wall, providing yet a third, distinct zone at this multiple-personality spot.
Mak Chin’s. 1511 Shepherd, 713/861-9889