Asha Gomez on closing down Cardamom Hill, opening Spice to Table in Studioplex Friday

Plus a possible pop-up with dishes from Cardamom Hill

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Last week Asha Gomez surprised Atlanta when she announced that she would be closing Cardamom Hill after dinner service tonight. Cardamom Hill had been named among Bon Appétit magazine’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants in 2012, and the restaurant later became a James Beard semi-finalist. But even after tonight, Gomez will still be hard at work; she plans to open an Indian patisserie called Spice to Table in Studioplex Friday.

With Spice to Table, Gomez is shifting focus from dinner to breakfast and lunch, while maintaining the Kerala-style cuisine. She says it will allow her to spend more time with her son, while continuing to share the flavors of India with Atlantans. Below, she explains how she’ll be easing customers into her style and reveals a potential Monday night pop-up.

Why’d you decided to open a breakfast and lunch place, rather than another dinner spot like Cardamom Hill?
I wanted to make my food something that had a mass appeal. Cardamom Hill was a fine dining restaurant. There were so many people who couldn’t come enjoy what we did there. Due to extremely high overhead, our pricing was on the higher side. It’s nice to be able to bring those same flavor profiles to a broader audience and get to see our guests more often.

Typically people here think of ethnic restaurants for dinner and breakfast as Southern.
We’re taking very familiar dishes and changing the flavor profile. In the morning, you might have a bowl of oatmeal, but [at Spice to Table], it’ll have seven spices and dried nuts and fruit like pistachio and apricots. Our crostata is caramelized onion and Kerala cashew. We’ll have quiche but the flavors are Indian, and a sweet and savory breakfast bread pudding with cane syrup and Indian spices. It’s an American sensibility but Indian flavors. That makes it more approachable.

What can people expect for lunch?
The menu will change every day. [There will be] curry chicken potpie, goat tongue hoagie, savory chicken sandwiches, and lamb kebab rolls. The railroad beef from Cardamom Hill is now going to be in a hoagie. We’ll roast a banana leaf and take rice flour and make dough out of it. Then we put it on the banana leaf, stuff with ingredients and steam it, so it’s like a Kerala version of a tamale.

Will the famous Kerala-style fried chicken make an appearance?
No, only at Spice Road Chicken [a food stall coming to Krog Street Market] because that’s a fried chicken shack. Spice to Table is closed on Mondays, and I’m seriously considering Monday night pop-up dinners with the dishes people loved at Cardamom Hill.

When would that start?
Probably mid August.

How will you balance having two new restaurants opening around the same time?
I’ll be in the kitchen at Spice to Table for a while. Roberto Pacheco, chef de cuisine at Cardamom Hill, may be at Spice Road Chicken. It’s a tried a true recipe we’re using there.

Who will be making all of the breads and pastries at Spice to Table?
My pastry chef is Lori Horne. She comes from a catering background. She’ll be making my mom’s spiced carrot cake with black pepper and cloves, and chile chocolate cake. They’ll be very grown-up, adult pastries that really tone down the sugar. My bread maker is Sarah Dodge from Holeman & Finch and Octopus Bar.

And your coffee?
We work with Rev. They made our own blend of coffee for us. It’s European. Once it’s made, it’ll be infused with cardamom and ginger and sweetened with palm sugar. That’s after brewed. Of course, we’ll have our hot chai, too.

And there’s a retail component to the restaurant, too, right?
There will be, probably a month out. It’ll have a lot of spices, teas, coffees, and jams and pickles from other local vendors.

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