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Chefs to watch 2011

Five Atlanta culinary talents to keep an eye on

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TOM NAITO

Tomo, the small Japanese restaurant in Vinings owned by chef Tom Naito, has long been a favorite of critics and dedicated foodies. But the location has perhaps kept Naito from widespread recognition as one of the city's best chefs. In November of 2009, Naito announced he was planning to open a restaurant in Buckhead, in the new Ritz-Carlton Residences. Originally conceived of as a second location, Naito announced in July that he'd be closing his Vinings location to focus on Buckhead.

When asked about the timeline for his new establishment, initially slated to open last April, Naito laughs. "I'm trying hard ... three or four weeks." But he adds that it's partially contingent on selling the current location. What can we expect from the new restaurant? "I want to do the same thing. More varieties of cooked food, because there's a bigger kitchen.

"I have a grill station, so I can do some grilling — not just meat, but fish as well." He's also looking to add a touch of molecular gastronomy to the mix. "The main thing is the cooking and the sushi and sashimi. But I'm going to add a little touch of the molecular gastronomy. I'll add it here and there just for the garnish, just a little fun. That's the plan, anyway."

Changes or not, in the months that follow, we'll see whether Naito can continue the legacy of pristine, creative Japanese cooking he created in Vinings, and whether the new, more prominent location will catapult him to the star status he deserves.

Additional reporting by Gwynedd Stuart.

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