Makan My Way Downtown

A critical review of Makan Malaysian Cafe located in the Old South Pearl Street district

Vivianna DeNittis

More stories from Vivianna DeNittis

This restaurant, nestled into Old South Pearl Street, is the place for adventurous eaters, devoted VSCO-ers and unpretentious, self-proclaimed hipsters.

Makan (pronounced ma-con) Malaysian Cafe greets customers immediately with a welcoming wall of warmth and foreign smells, a solace from the increasingly chilling fall air. It’s hip and modern, while maintaining authenticity within its small space. This restaurant, nestled into Old South Pearl Street, is the place for adventurous eaters, devoted VSCO-ers and unpretentious, self-proclaimed hipsters.

The cafe looks like, well, a cafe; their outside wall is artistically graffitied to show a coffee shop scene and tea pots are aligned around the perimeter of the front bar. The bar area is petite in height and area, lit with dim lights, using mini bar stools to offer spots to single customers. There are multiple tables adjacent to the long green wall and the bench protruding from it, reminding me of the Dry Creek Starbucks, pre-renovation. Do not be confused! The restaurant specializes in savory Malaysian dishes.

“What does Malaysian food look,

smell and taste like?”

A photo of the store front and bar from my table. All the tables are accompanied by small stools and buckets of silverware. photo by Vivianna DeNittis.

I know you’re asking that as you’re reading this, and I definitely asked myself the same question up until the moment my dish was in front of me. Malaysia is a part of the Indonesian islands, South of Thailand. As you can imagine, island food synonymous with seafood. While there were non-seafood options, I would not recommend this place for a person with seafood or shellfish allergies. Almost everything on the menu is cooked with a shrimp paste. I could only find a couple of plates that were both shrimp and shrimp paste free. Be sure to tell your waiter about your allergies, because the menu does not specify all the ingredients in every dish.


Menu offerings and plate reviews:

They had more familiar dishes such as curry, dimsum dumplings and a “Curry Puffs,” resembling empanadas. They also serve roti, which seemed to be a flatbread served with different toppings and curries, various noodle bowls, and sambals, which are dishes served with a hot sauce. If you’re a little lost, that’s okay. I still do not really know what all of that is, either.

Nasi goreng, the dish I ordered. I remembered a few bites too late to snap a photo for the article. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that it looked much better with the fried egg on top. photo by Vivianna Denittis.

I ordered Nasi Goreng, Malaysian lightly spiced fried rice, with tomatoes, green onions, bean sprouts, cucumbers, chicken, all topped with a fried egg. It was not what I was suspecting at all. The rice was spicy and slightly tangy; it was a flavor I cannot fully describe.

It’s like a language, we’ve trained ourselves to only speak certain English sounds, so when we try to mimic foreign languages, we cannot replicate or describe the sounds they use. The food tasted wonderful, but it did not taste like anything I have had before, so I cannot explain it to its full justice.

My friend ordered chicken curry. It was different than Thai or Indian curries, that we have both tried before. It was more soupy, and had only a few flavors, rather than the multiple spices found in Indian curry. This does not mean it was any less delicious. It was delightful and filling.

The menu is fairly small, but I do not see a need for it to be longer. My only real complaint is that the price to portion size ratio is rather large. A main dish can cost around $12 to $17 dollars, while the portion is rather small. There was enough food, but it would have been more satisfying if there was even a half a cup more. I ultimately thought the price was worth it because I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, our waitress and the ambiance.

If you’re a fan of trying new and different things, exploring little pockets of the Denver area or consider yourself a bit of a foodie, I definitely recommend trying out Makan Malaysian Cafe. Do not forget to stop by Stella’s Coffee Haus, just a few blocks North, to fulfill any coffee or tea after-dinner cravings!

Check out their website: