Visitors are naturally drawn to the huge, blazing fire pit at the heart of Maydan, the new restaurant opening Tuesday, November 21, in the alley of the evolving Manhattan Laundry Building complex. Yet founder Rose Previte says cooking over an open flame happens every night all around the globe.
“What we’re doing to a lot of people isn’t even spectacular. It’s just normal,” Previte says of the standard practice she and Maydan co-executive chefs Gerald Addison and Chris Morgan encountered daily during a weeks-long research trip that led them across North Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.
The trio is showing off all they learned at Maydan (1346 Florida Avenue NW), a communal dining experience that builds upon the culinary travelogue Previte first introduced at her Rammy-award winning, Georgian-themed restaurant, Compass Rose.
The Cardozo eatery is about 1,000 square feet bigger than its predecessor, and sports a mix-and-match aesthetic Previte pieced together by combing through collectibles at Little Miss Pixies on 14th Street NW and cast-offs at flea markets in Los Angeles.
“Travel is the connector,” Previte says of the bridge between the sibling establishments. But she could also be referring to the decor, the menu, and the hospitality baked into Maydan.
Addison and Morgan speak about the time they spent cooking alongside matriarchs in Moroccan villages, at Georgian anniversary feasts, and at Turkish cafes in reverential tones; they’re mission here is to pay homage to the time-honored traditions that were graciously shared with them.
“I think it’s so relevant to the food that we’re cooking,” Addison says of the decision to eschew a traditional kitchen in favor of draping everything over flaming white oak. Granted, lamb shoulder is cooked through in the oven and then finished over the crackling logs, but that’s done so as not confuse it with barbecue. “We want a nice gentle smoke,” he says of the blended approach.
Everything else, from herb-soaked sardines to blistered eggplant drizzled in walnut sauce to tender whole chickens spiced with garlic, coriander, and turmeric spends some time in the sparks-throwing inferno that greets patrons as soon as they enter.
Twin tandoor-style ovens produce warm, pull-apart breads which serve as accompaniment, utensil, and often their own chewy reward. Addison tells Eater the slightly puffy rounds are based on a lavash-like whole wheat bread he stumbled across in a falafel shop in Turkey; it’s meant to be an amalgam of the various breads they ate during their tour.
Vegetables are crucial to the meal, Morgan says, billing a colorful beet dip (which he said may feature spinach in the future), extra chunky Beiruti-style hummus laced with tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, as well as sliced carrots sparked by fiery harissa as stars in their own right.
“Our intention with the menu is that everything works well together,” Morgan says.
Maydan is projected to operate from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m, Monday through Saturday, and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays. Weekend brunch is expected to follow.
Status: Scheduled to open at 5 p.m. 1346 Florida Avenue NW; website.