Malaysian restaurant Makan, currently based in D.C., is actively exploring a second location in the Lowcountry. “I grew up in South Carolina, have family in Charleston, and have always loved the city’s warmth, beauty, and history,” says Makan chef James Wozniuk, “The last few years it has become such a versatile food city full of people who just love trying new things and having a good time.”
Wozniuk thinks that there is a place for Malaysian cuisine in Charleston. “It’s both unique and very approachable,” he says, “There are influences from China and India that people will recognize and super-cool things people won’t, but all of it is delicious.”
His obsession with Malaysian cuisine began on a research trip while he was a chef de cuisine at Cambodian and Taiwanese cafe Maketto, also based in D.C. After a 15-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur, on the way to Hanoi, he found himself going back multiple times to research and eat. He went on to open Makan in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of D.C. in 2020.
Eater D.C. lists Makan as one of its essential restaurants, stating:
At this Malaysian restaurant in Columbia Heights, chef James Wozniuk navigates a balance of pungent, spicy-sweet, and funky umami flavors that vary in intensity but never veer out of control. Wozniuk’s condiments — sambal made from bird’s eye chiles, palm sugar, tamarind, and fried anchovies; appetite-piquing pickled limes with prune and golden raisin; and peanut-based satay sauce — assert themselves in an array of rice and noodle dishes. The bar mixes complex tropical cocktails, like a blackstrap rum and pineapple Jungle Bird, that vie for attention.
“I fell in love with Malaysia over a decade ago and it was so amazing to bring that to D.C. when we opened Makan there,” says Wozniuk, “I just hope we can bring the same love into Charleston and be a part of that natural hospitality the city’s known for.”