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Chefs to watch 2011

Five Atlanta culinary talents to keep an eye on



Here we have it — a new batch of chefs who'll shape what Atlanta will be eating over the coming months. From well-known faces to brand-new restaurateurs, this crop of tastemakers is full of talent to keep an eye on.


A little more than a year ago, Asha Gomez started a local supper club called Spice Route, which highlights the food of Kerala, the Southwestern region of India where she grew up. Spice Route quickly became known around town for Gomez's beautiful, soulful cooking and the embrace of her hospitality. These days, a spot at the Spice Route table is a hard ticket to come by. "We sent out the email at 9 a.m. for this month's dinner," Gomez says. "We were sold out by 9:05."

The overwhelmingly positive reception to Spice Route led Gomez to consider opening a more traditional eatery. This fall her restaurant Cardamom Hill will open at 1700 Northside Drive in Berkeley Hills, just north of the already bustling Westside. Gomez plans to serve thali plates at lunch and a selection of daily changing curries and traditional dishes at dinner presented in a modern, upscale Western style. "We're going to have a section on our menu dedicated to the American South meets the Indian south — rice grits with curried shrimp, and pork vindaloo sliders next to pulled pork sliders," says Gomez.

Cardamom Hill has the potential to be a pioneer restaurant on a number of levels. First, Atlanta has long lacked a serious Indian restaurant that elevates the cuisine to the level of fine dining. Second, for Berkeley Hills, this will be the first true destination restaurant and could change the neighborhood significantly. Third, it's sure to be a stunningly beautiful restaurant — anyone who ever visited Gomez's previous business, Neem Tree Spa, will remember her eye for luxuriant calming beauty.

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