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The most global culinary destination in Gwinnett, the metro area’s most international county, at first glance looks like a typical American food court. But the bazaar inside Duluth’s Assi Plaza brings together the cuisines of Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, the Philippines, and Peru under one roof. Compared to the other Asian hypermarkets—Super H Mart, Great Wall Supermarket, and Mega Mart—opened in recent years along Pleasant Hill Road, Assi (which launched in 2009) delivers the most cross-cultural reach. In its food court, counters with attractive, uniform signage face a common dining area with wood-grain, laminated tables grouped on a linoleum floor that draws the eye with its sunny colors. Every vendor posts backlit pictures of staggeringly diverse menu items.
Kimio Fukuya holds court most nights at Bishoku, the new Japanese restaurant started by his vivacious daughter, Jackie. Fukuya retired two years ago after selling his seminal restaurant Sushi Huku, a popular Japanese expat hangout known for its Osaka-style specialties. But his former sushi chef, Mickey-san, migrated to Bishoku, and many of his old drinking buddies join him for rounds of sake and hearty food in a dining room the exact color of green tea.
Anyone who's ever trekked beyond Atlanta's urban nucleus in search of a secluded dining pearl knows this backdrop well: a desolate commercial stretch scattered with low buildings erected decades ago, a smattering of luxury car dealerships, discount megastores, and, mingled among this alien landscape, the strip malls where the destination restaurants hide.