Any seasoned foodie would be first to renounce takeout for the full sensorial experience of eating at a restaurant, which is what makes Ahan’s arrival in Madison so sensational from a culinary perspective. Chef and proprietor Jamie Hoang’s tutelage as sous chef to award-winning chefs like Tory Miller is shining through now that she’s running her own kitchen—particularly in regard to having a keen sense of how to elevate to-go meals well beyond conventional standards.
“Keeping the quality of the food similar to dine-in is important to us. We really thought out how we could keep certain ingredients separate in order to maintain quality,” Hoang says. “Just knowing the different textures and ingredients of each dish helped us strategize the packaging of each entrée. I have worked at a lot of really great restaurants and have always enjoyed offering beautiful plates. I wanted people to be able to still have a little bit of that experience at home.”
Once social distancing regulations related to COVID-19 precautions have been lifted, she eagerly anticipates being able to launch on-site dining. “We will offer five to six counter seats, plus three to four small tables,” she reveals. “We will offer walk-up, carry-out service too instead of contactless pick-up” (which has been the only option for customers since The Bur Oak became Ahan’s brick and mortar location in August 2020).
Hoang is also hoping to broaden what’s currently available in Dane County in terms of Asian-inspired cuisine. In her own words, “Ahan is adding a modern take on Southeast Asian food.” Although several of the current offerings may seem similar to menus at other Laotian or Thai restaurants in Madison, she has created an à la carte selection that is distinctive enough to appeal to adventurous palates. The Khao Poon Kathi Dang is as dense as Pho—yet has a coconut milk base—and a bounty of textures from an abundance of rice noodles, cabbage, scallion and crispy rice that all add up to a soup that can easily satisfy two people for dinner (or ensure one has quite a tasty lunch to look forward to the next day).
Hoang and her crew aren’t skimping on appetizer portions either. The rotating “wing special” has become quite popular due to flavorful renditions such as spicy peanut balanced by the accompaniment of jasmine rice as a side. And the vegetable egg rolls are triple in circumference of what many Americans have previously had, in addition to being extremely allergen-friendly—they are vegan and nut-free. Indeed, it’s probably not a bad idea to save room for multiple courses when placing your first order because sampling every dish will likely become a goal before the new year is over.
For more info on Ahan, click here.