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At Le Fat, Guy Wong’s new Vietnamese restaurant, the design, inspired by the French colonial era, hits you the minute you walk in. The vintage signs convey an ornate Eurasian elegance, and the two rooms are painted the cool colors (particularly a muted green with pops of red) you find where it’s hot.
Quynh Trinh goes by “Q” and calls everyone “honey” or “babe.” A former brand manager for Singaporean Tiger Beer who grew up in Chicago, she took over a sliver of an ice cream parlor in East Atlanta Village last year to open We Suki Suki, a spunky sandwich and tea shop. If her kitchen equipment (a Foreman grill and a toaster oven) at first gave me pause, any doubts about the seriousness of her intentions vanished after one bite of her traditional banh mi subs. The crisp, airy Vietnamese-style baguettes are showered with marinated meats or tofu and garnished with slivers of carrot and daikon, sprigs of cilantro, and slices of jalapeño. They’re as skillfully composed as any banh mi you’d find on Buford Highway—and at $5 apiece, they’re nearly as inexpensive.
It’s been precisely one month since Angus Brown, chef at Octopus Bar, left Atlanta for a culinary adventure that started in Vietnam and will include stints in Japan and Cambodia. Nhan Le, Brown’s partner at Octopus Bar, has been holding down the fort since Brown’s departure. Brown lucked out with the connections—Le’s family has hosted him, along with the cousin of Lanie Vu, proprietor of Dumpling Girl stands at East Atlanta and Grant Park farmers markets.
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.
I sat in the foyer of Nam Phuong in Norcross, hunched over my iPhone and madly Googling the names of Vietnamese dishes I'd never heard of before. On the restaurant's back wall, a glowing white screen broadcast the restaurant's daily specials. The program running the projection rhythmically underlined the words over and over again—the PowerPoint equivalent of a broken record. The dishes were listed only in Vietnamese.
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