It seemed to open out of nowhere. A week into November, City Bites Insider noticed the stylized “M” outside the former New Nupur restaurant on the north edge of the Glebe. Intrigued, we got in touch and discovered that the “M” stands for Makita Kitchen Bar, which launched just a few weeks ago. Helmed by two local chefs with roots in the neighbourhood, Makita has an ambitious Asian-inspired menu — and a wealth of plans for the future. We caught up with Chef Elliott Gosselin and GM Caroline Murphy to hear more about the latest addition to the Glebe restaurant scene.
Where to start? It seems like Makita opened out of nowhere. What’s the story?
Elliott: Caroline and I have talked about opening a restaurant for a while. We’ve worked together over the years at Glebe Meat Market and the Manx. I was working at the Manx most recently, and doing my own catering.
Caroline: I was chef de cuisine at Town.
Elliott: We’d been talking about this for a while and then suddenly a silent investor came to me and said, “Let’s do your own place.” I immediately called Caroline — and here we are. It all came together quickly.
Caroline: Right now Elliott’s doing most of the cooking and I’m more of a general manager and front of house. But I’ll be in the kitchen as well at some point.
Elliott: The idea is that we’ll all work as a team, so there won’t be a hierarchy among staff. That’s what it was like at the Manx and I love that.
Tell me about the name.
Elliott: Makita means “due North” in Japanese. It ties in with our Asian menu and we thought it was fitting since we’re located at the northern edge of the Glebe.
Tell me about the menu, which looks pan-Asian at a glance.
Elliott: I’d been thinking about going in this direction for a while — comfort food like I made at the Manx, but adapted with Asian influences. Asian flavours come easily to me — they’re strong, colourful, simple, and bold. You can have fun.
Asian, but with a local angle?
Elliott: Yes, a kind of East meets West. There are now local suppliers who are growing Asian vegetables, so we can use a lot of local ingredients in these dishes.
You have a fairly short menu of a couple of dozen items. Tell me how it works.
Caroline: The top half of the menu is the snacks, while the bottom half is large plates. It’s a neat way to do it, so if you just want a snack or plan to share with friends you can order from the top. The bottom is full meals — things like the salmon, the fried chicken and waffles, the steak frites — all with an Asian twist.
Elliott: I plan to rotate the menu items often. I want people to stop in two times a week or two times a month versus two times a year. I grew up in the Glebe, so I want there to be a community feeling here with lots of people from the neighbourhood stopping in regularly.
Caroline: Since Elliott grew up here, lots of Elliott’s friends come by and [his] friends’ parents. It’s really cute!
What menu items are really popular so far?
Caroline: The Shrimp Toast with cilantro and betal leaf has been big. And the three flavours of steamed buns. It’s hard to tell after just a few weeks.
Many people will remember what New Nupur, the former restaurant in this spot, looked like. You have completely transformed the place. Tell me about the design.
Elliott: I have a lot of friends in the trades so that helped. The whole renovation took just over two months.
Caroline: We did the design. There’s the bar along one wall and the black walnut bar down the middle of the restaurant — it’s all one walnut tree from southwestern Ontario.
Elliott: The idea is that you have this social gathering spot through the middle of the restaurant where people can sit or stand along that long table.
Caroline: Sanding down the brick took days and days.
Elliott: The mural along one wall was done by a local artist named Dan Metcalfe. He’s from the Glebe and does a lot of outdoor murals around here. This is not his usual thing — he usually works in spray paint and this is watercolour. We wanted a real showstopper piece. This is based on a Chinese scroll we showed him.
You’ve been fully open for a month. Are you still on a high?
Caroline: I can’t believe I get to live the dream and run a restaurant!
Elliott: We are. The soft opening at the end of October with all our friends was great and we haven’t stopped going since.
Which brings me to the last question. Future plans?
Caroline: We have just been doing dinners, but we’ll start offering lunch from Wednesday to Friday beginning Dec. 14.
Elliott: In January sometime, we’ll launch a Saturday and Sunday brunch. The plan is to have a dim sum kind of brunch with ideas from around Asia, as well as a regular eggs and bacon menu.
Elliott: We’re already thinking about next summer — opening up a patio in the back parking lot, maybe.
Caroline: Maybe planting a herb garden on our flat roof.
Elliott: We’ll see how it goes!
Makita Kitchen and Bar
589 Bank St.