By Cheryl Mandell
The Mak brothers are living the American dream. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Billy and Kevin Mak spent their early years immersed in the culture and food of southern China until their family emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1990s. For many years, the Mak family owned a successful Chinese restaurant in Sarasota. Living and working around food gave Billy and Kevin a solid foundation to build their culinary dreams.
The Maks spent years gaining diverse knowledge of Asian cuisines while working in the restaurant business and traveling extensively. Inspired by their upbringing and taking a page out of their parents’ playbook, Kevin and Billy opened MAKS Asian Kitchen & Sushi in Fort Myers in 2019.
Tucked away in a plaza just south of Daniels Parkway, the restaurant is clean, modern and inviting. There are subtle touches of Asian decor, such as wooden partitions that artfully resemble cherry blossom branches. The sushi bar is impeccable and minimalist, with clean white countertops, dark seats and sushi that speaks for itself.
The Mak brothers’ ultimate goal is quality and freshness, which they deliver in abundance.
“Our standards are higher than average,” said Kevin. “Everything comes in fresh. We really care about quality and don’t mind paying extra. We go through about 200 pounds of salmon a week.”
The menu at MAKS extends beyond traditional Chinese dishes, with a wide variety of extremely fresh sushi, sashimi, and hot and cold Japanese and Chinese dishes. Popular appetizers include spicy garlic edamame, hot-and-sour soup, classics like lo mein and stir fry udon, and kitchen favorites such as General Tao’s with tofu, chicken or shrimp. Then there’s the popular Pineapple Seafood Fried Rice, which is a savory mix of scallops, shrimp and imitation crab with egg, carrots, onions, sweet pineapple and cashews – adding a satisfying crunch.
The staff at MAKS currently consists of four sushi chefs and five chefs in the kitchen, who travel together around the world searching for culinary inspiration. These chefs (including Kevin and Billy) are masters of their craft, meticulously creating classic and unique Asian cuisine that keeps tourists and regulars returning time and again.
They also listen to their patrons. “Sometimes our guests come up with great ideas, too,” said Billy. Loyal customers have offered interesting suggestions, including an unlikely addition of Manchego cheese to a sushi roll, which Billy claimed turned out fairly well.
Billy’s favorite dish from the kitchen is the Mongolian Beef – also a top choice among customers. His favorite item from the sushi bar, same as his brother, is the melt-in-your-mouth fresh tuna or yellowtail sashimi.
Specials like the elusive bluefin tuna come in at a moment’s notice and are often texted to guests or posted on social media on a first come, first served basis. Judging by the full seats and smiling faces around the restaurant, MAK’s specials are never in-house for long.
MAKS Asian Kitchen & Sushi is open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the exception of Wednesday, when they open at 4 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Sunday to allow staff to be with their loved ones. This is important to the Mak brothers, who treat their staff like family, and in some cases, they actually are – our cordial, knowledgeable server, Jessica, is their sister. Many customers ask why this busy restaurant is not open on the last day of the weekend, but their stance is firm. The staff’s time and talent is valued at MAKS, and Sunday is reserved for rest, faith and family.
Triple Salsa — If you love sashimi, this appetizer is for you! If you’ve never tried it, here’s a truly fresh opportunity. Thinly sliced tuna, fresh salmon and yellowtail topped with jalapeno salsa – the perfect complement to this simply delicious starter.
MAKS Crispy Rice – One of the more complex items to create, according to Billy, and certainly worth it. Butter soy crispy rice topped with spicy salmon (as pictured) or choice of spicy tuna, smelt roe (also known as masago in Japanese – which are deliciously edible fish eggs), scallions, avocado slices and spicy miso mayo.
Rising Salmon— A beautiful, sunny presentation, thanks to the delicious mango salsa and seared salmon topping, this specialty sushi roll is a crowd-pleasing combination of fresh salmon, avocado and cucumber in a traditional roll with rice.
Tuna Maki — Sushi lovers will agree, sometimes sushi calls for a roll without any rice, and MAK’s tuna maki satisfies that craving. Generous portions of spicy krab mix and avocado are wrapped in expertly thin-sliced tuna, topped with wasabi aioli, sweet eel sauce, smelt roe and scallions.
Mongolian Beef — MAK’s Mongolian beef (also offered in chicken or shrimp options) is a slightly spicy and perfectly savory blend of sauteed onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, melt-in-your-mouth beef in a hoisin soy sauce. It’s easy to see (and taste!) why this dish is a customer favorite.
Molten Lava Cake — Sumptuous warm chocolate molten lava cake topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and fudge drizzle. A brilliant finale!
MAKS Asian Kitchen & Sushi
13650 Fiddlesticks Blvd, Ste. 206
Fort Myers, FL 33912