March 3, 2013
ATL Dining Chatter: Week of March 4, 2013
The latest news bites from the dining scene and the newest eats beats
By James Oxendine
In-town star chef, Mihoko Obunai ( formerly of Repast), takes her culinary finesse to the OTP location of Joli Kobe and transforms the Japanese/French bakery into a destination spot for fine-dining. Plus: Ford Fry plans to open a festive Tex-Mex with live music in Inman Park; a new Jean Georges Vongerichten resto comes to the Perimeter; AAA/Four Diamond Awards are dished out to local restaurants, and more tasty news on the local food scene.
Q&A with Chef Mihoko Obunai: From Bakery to Bistro
The popular, Japanese/French Bakery Joli Kobe is rebranding into a full service, seasonally driven restaurant. And it has tapped veteran culinary star, Chef Mihoko Obunai (formerly of Repast and most recently, famous for concocting the cult ramen for Guy Wong’s Miso Izakaya) as the top toque of its Sandy Springs locale. Obunai, a former contestant on the Food Network’s Chopped, a starchefs.com Atlanta Rising Star Chef award recipient, and former restaurant owner-operator of Repast, has eagerly taken on the task of converting the former bakery into the newly-renamed Joli Kobe Kitchen.
Obunai’s Japanese heritage and classic French culinary background (she’s classically trained at the French Culinary Institute and has done stints at La Caravelle, L’Absinthe, Bayard’s and Gustavino’s) created an ideal fit for owner, Katsuhiko “Vic” Watanabe. Joli Kobe Kitchen will now offer OTPer’s the type of fine dining that they formerly had to go to Buckhead or Midtown to enjoy. Some of the changes include an open kitchen and chef’s tasting table and new menu items such as house smoked Georgia trout, house local organic pickles, Gum Creek Farms pork chops, Pine Street Market charcuteries, and seasonal local vegetables and grains.
The passionate Obunai, who co-owned and operated the late and lamented O4W pioneer, Repast with her ex-husband Joe Truex, is still in the process of revamping the menu. The “New American” menu will debut mid-February and will be influenced by Japanese and French cooking techniques, as well as seasonal, local ingredients. In addition, Obunai has hired talented sous chef Andy Tren; and for all of you noodle heads out there, will serve her famous ramen at the new locale! Read on for more scoop on her new culinary post.
Q: Given your background as a chef and restaurant owner, what made you decide to work with the Joli Kobe Kitchen team?
MO: I am friends with a few of the past chefs, and have become great friends with the owners. Given my Japanese background, it seemed like a great fit. On top of it all though, I love the space and feel that it is one of the best kitchens in Atlanta. I am very excited to be here!
Q: What are some of the changes you have planned for the menu at Joli Kobe and will the changes be all at once or phased in gradually?
MO: There are a lot of changes coming, but I am going to keep some of the signature dishes that have been made so popular. I will make everything, including sauces, stocks and more in-house, and I will buy my produce from local farmers. We will have fresh seafood, pork from Gum Creek Farms, charcuteries from Pine Street Market, and all other ingredients organic and local. My hope is for the regulars to discover the new dishes and new flavors I am creating.
Q: Will your now famous ramen be part of the new menu at any point in time?
MO: Yes, I will have ramen on the menu! It will be used in a variety of ways, and we will play with it in different dishes.
Q: I understand you will have a very skilled sous chef on your team?
MO: My sous chef, Andy Tren, and I have worked together in the past. Andy knows my cooking style, flavors, and personality, and I am very happy working with him again. He was at Repast with me, where I initially trained him..
Q: Who have been some of the most influential chefs in your career and how have you translated their influence into your personal culinary style?
MO: There are a few chefs that have influenced me, but my mentor chef is Chef Daniel Orr, who is currently at The Farm, Bloomington, IN. He was a chef at La Grenouille restaurant in the 90’s, and then moved to Guastavino’s. He was the one of the first chefs I worked with in New York, and I had the pleasure of serving as line cook and sous chef for him.
Q: Where do you like to eat here in Atlanta when you get a chance to dine out?
MO: I like to eat in Decatur, because I live there! I love to eat at my chef-friends’ restaurants, such as No. 246, Leon's, Cakes & Ale and many more!
For more info on Joli Kobe Kitchen visit: www.jolikobe.com/
JAMES OXENDINE’S NEWS BITES FROM THE LOCAL DINING SCENE
2013 AAA/Four Diamond Awards for Atlanta Restaurants
Congratulations are in order for the Atlanta’s 2013 AAA/ Four Diamond award wining restos: Aria, Atlanta Grill (at The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta), Bacchanalia, BLT Steak, Canoe, La Grotta Ravinia Ristorante Italiano, La Grotta Ristorante Italiano (Buckhead),Nan Thai Fine Dining, Nikolai’s Roof (at Hilton Atlanta),Park 75 (at Four Seasons) and Restaurant Eugene.
Cochon 555: Atlanta Winners
Cochon 555's stopped in Atlanta recently to celebrate all things pork and masters of mixology. The winner of the pork-palooza: chef Ryan Smith of Empire State South— whose entire team was decked out in Team Hidi gear to support friend and fellow chef Ryan Hidinger, recently diagnosed with cancer. Team Hidi/ESS took home first place in the nose-to-tail competition, with Smith crowned "Prince of Porc." He will advance to compete in the Grand Cochon during Aspen's Food & Wine Festival on June 16. Meanwhile, Trip Sandifer of The Spence won the Punch Kings challenge for mixology.
Le Méridien Atlanta, which officially opened last week in the former W Perimeter, will soon welcome a new Jean Georges Vongerichten resto to Atlanta called Portico. Portico, which will be helmed by chef Brian Lee, who was most recently in the kitchen at the St. Regis San Francisco, will feature an international menu with European and Asian influences. The restaurant will be built on what is currently a broken and dilapidated patio adjacent to the lobby bar on the main level. Portico is slated to open this spring.
Old Fourth Ward:
National online food news site, Eater.com, has named Guy Wong’s Miso Izakaya as one of its “19 Hottest Ramen Shops”. Wong’s 36-hour tonkotsu is cited as one of the most “exciting recent editions to the ramen genre across the country”.
We hear from a reliable source that James Beard-nominated restaurateur Ford Fry has inked a lease to open an Austin, Texas style taqueria with a “big stage for live music and an awesome patio" in the Krog Street Market development. The in-town project, modeled after markets like Oxbow Public Market in Napa Valley, is a $70 million redevelopment by Paces Properties LLC, which also developed Vinings Jubilee.
Rumor has it that beloved, meat-and-three icon Carver's Country Kitchen plans to close its doors on March 30 with owner Sharon Carver retirement.
Brett Ashcraft was promoted from sous chef to executive chef at Abattoir. He replaces Tyler Williams, who takes on Kevin Gillespie’s former executive chef position at Woodfire Grill. (Gillespie will open his how spot Gunshow in the spring)
According to its facebook page, UMI Sushi, from former MF Buckhead team members, Fuyuhiko Ito and his wife, Lisa, is slated to open March 1st at 3050 Peachtree Road in Buckhead Plaza with a design by Atlanta-based aesthetic identity firm Goodrowe Hobby.
Three Taverns Brewery, located at New Street off College Avenue in East Decatur Station, is slated to open this summer after a long slog getting local and federal approvals.
The team behind Mezcalito’s Cantina in Oakhurst has opened Mezcalito’s Cocina and Tequila Bar in Grant Park at 304 Oakland Avenue, across from Oakland Cemetery, in a smartly refurbished building. The menu features originally based recipes from Acapulco and wide array of tequilas.
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