New Owners Bring Kedai Makan Back to Life
Kedai Makan said farewell on October 29, after a month of sorrowful queues and a decade of deep love and consistent crowds. Next month, new owners will relocate the much-loved Malaysian restaurant and the menu—and hopefully the magic—to a new spot on Capitol Hill.
Joe and Lucy Ye own Hangry Panda on Aurora Avenue, a tiny counter spot that makes Taiwanese street-style food (and a few Seattle staples) eminently worth a drive across town. They were also partners in Money Frog, which began on 19th Avenue, then relocated to 15th and Pine this fall. That restaurant’s stay was short-lived, but the Yes plan to move Kedai Makan to Money Frog’s most recent address, 1449 E Pine St.
The couple has been working with Kedai Makan founders Kevin Burzell and Alysson Wilson, learning the ways of nasi goreng and laksa and roti jala. The ownership transfer involved passing along “hundreds, if not over a thousand” recipes, says Joe Ye.
He and Lucy were both born in China’s Fujian province, separated from Taiwan by little more than a strait. “The cool thing about Malaysian cuisine, it’s kind of a confluence,” says Joe. The nation’s eclectic culinary influences include dishes and flavors from Fujian. Representing different facets of Asian cuisine was what they wanted to do with Money Frog in the first place, he says. “It just makes more sense to do it via Kedai Makan.” So far, the Yes have been pleasantly surprised by the familiarity they’ve encountered in these newly acquired recipes and techniques.
When the couple first heard the restaurant was for sale, they were interested, but had come on board as partners in Taurus Ox’s new location, as well as Money Frog, a project with Taurus Ox co-owner Khampaeng Panyathong. In other words, they had a lot going on. A few months later, the partners realized they either needed to close Money Frog or invest a scary-big chunk of additional resources. Panyathong bowed out to focus on other projects (including a pizza spot and a burger joint based on the incredible version at Taurus Ox). The Yes turned their gaze back to Kedai Makan.
“Our biggest fear is that we don’t live up to what Kevin and Alysson have built up over the years,” says Joe. But the Kedai Makan handoff has involved several weeks of recipe training; some decor from the original restaurant will come over to the new location, too. A few more labor-intensive dishes, like the nasi lemak and chili pan mee might not resurface, at least on the regular menu, but the roasted chicken from the restaurant’s earliest days will make a return. You might even see the ramly burger resurface occasionally, albeit under a different (non-trademarked) name. The late-night specialty included a patty wrapped in egg.
“Hopefully it’s a menu that still looks familiar,” says Joe. “We’re not trying to move in a different direction.” The cocktail program will come along to the new location, too.
However, he wants one of the most familiar aspects of Kedai Makan—that would be the wait times—to look different. The dining room will have more seats than the previous location, and Kedai will offer a few reservations for larger parties. Burzell and Wilson are helping the Yes set up the kitchen to ensure efficiency.
The queues at Kedai Makan are so significant, the Yes never had a chance to eat there. “The first time I ate their food was after the deal closed,” says Joe. “We’d already started training.”
This new Kedai Makan should open around mid-January. I’d call it Kedai Makan 2.0, but the restaurant that began as a farmers market stall, then moved to a walkup counter before becoming a full-on restaurant has already seen more iterations than a Microsoft operating system. Here's hoping this new version lives up to all that came before.