Photo of Erik Bruner-Yang and his wife Seda Nak by Darrow Montgomery.
Photo of Erik Bruner-Yang and his wife Seda Nak by Darrow Montgomery.

Erik Bruner-Yang stands up for himself. That’s one thing 2016 has made clear. This time, the Chef/Owner of Maketto is sounding off on Facebook about a Yelp review from a diner who takes issue with an alleged lack of authenticity at the sizzling and always packed Southeast Asian eatery on H Street NE.

“After a first visit, I was willing to try again but knew my parents would go apesh*t if I brought them here. Now I won’t return,” anon r. writes in his introduction. Really, your parents would go apeshit over a meal? Who are they: Gordon Ramsay in full Kitchen Nightmares mode?

You can read the full Yelp review below, followed by Bruner-Yang’s poignant response that comes at a time when authenticity is often a topic of conversation—as “New American” restaurants are pulling from many corners of the globe and many upscale versions of ethnic eateries are being born (Bad Saint, Little Serow, and Maketto, to name a few).

Bruner-Yang, like reviewer anon r., is a Taiwanese American, so his response also focuses on the Asian American dining experience. 

From Bruner-Yang (unedited):

The problem with your review of our use of terms and subscriptions of culture in our cooking is exactly the problem that Asian Americans face in America. The wide ranges of generations from immigrants to Chinese populations that have been in the United States since 1840 at some point in time are going to have to recognize that your point of view on food is going to have to change.

1. Maketto has never claimed to be an “authentic” Taiwanese or Cambodian food experience. If you have ever been to Toki Underground, Paper Horse Ramen Bar, Honeycomb, or any of our companies pop ups that is the same philosophy we have carried over to all of our businesses. You seem like the person that has done their restaurant homework so your judgement was skewed from the beginning.

2. Unfortunately many Asian Americans enter a new style Asian establishment with any already preconceived that the food will be a bastardization of their culinary roots than being open minded to new food experiences.

3. A great restaurant should not just be a reflection of the head chef but of all the many cultures, races, and genders that work at the restaurant. I feel like Maketto has always done that well.

4. It is not an employees job to correct a customer whether or not we agree or disagree. Or job is to listen and to provide as great of service as we can provide based on your feedback.

5. Maketto should be a gateway to new food cultures. Our restaurant will have done our job if it opens peoples minds to search for other Cambodian restaurants or Taiwanese restaurants, which there are not many in our region in comparisons to other cuisines. Even more exciting is if our restaurant inspires people to travel to my home country or to my wife’s home country.

6. Judging a good restaurant in America by the color or race of someone’s skin is just one of the dumbest most dated comments of the year.

7. Asian Americans have to stop devaluing their own food. Their is place for many price points for our food. The cheap option, the high end option, and more options some where in the middle. We should be celebrating Asian restaurants owned by Asian Americans trying to break the cycle of $5 lunches, dragon rolls, and businesses with no real understanding of our local food system and the impact your food philosophy has globally.

8. After doing pop ups all over Asia now: Taipei, Phnom Penh, Beijing, Shanghai I have no doubt the way we represent our restaurant represent our culture with the utmost respect but also represents what being Taiwanese American means to me. It is a shame you won’t bring your parents to our restaurant because learning is generational and maybe they can open your mind a little bit about being more open minded.

Long may you sneer.