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“I just bought a one-way ticket to Ho Chi Minh City; I leave in January,” Angus Brown told me on the phone yesterday. The chef of late-night East Atlanta sensation Octopus Bar (a place I very much like) says he’s taking advantage of some learning opportunities in Asia to hone his skills before he returns to Atlanta in August of 2013. He'll be back to Octopus Bar but also has his sights set on opening his own restaurant.
It took me way too long to finally eat at East Atlanta Village’s Octopus Bar, a fringe endeavor—call it a restaurant addendum—that came to life last fall. Nhan Le, owner of Vietnamese pho joint So Ba, and Angus Brown, a chef who previously worked at Miller Union, devised a win-win brainchild: Brown, assisted by Le, takes over So Ba’s stoves at 10:30 every night except Sunday and cooks until 2:30 in the morning. The late-shift kitchen crew and waitstaff swoop in, and So Ba’s menu full of noodle soups disappears, replaced by a brainy list of mostly small plates, rife with provocative, primo ingredients that mingle Asian and American flavors. Brown and Le aim to please restaurant pros who start knocking off work right as Octopus Bar mobilizes. A similar chefs-cooking-for-chefs intent fueled the opening of Holeman and Finch Public House in 2008, and it’s a recipe other aspiring chef-owners would do well to follow. Octopus Bar’s setup, however odd, yields some of the most focused and individualistic cooking in the city.