Chefs Angus Brown and Nhan Le of Octopus Bar are gearing up to open a second restaurant, Lusca, at 1829 Peachtree Road in South Buckhead. Unlike the duo's late-night East Atlanta industry hang, Lusca will be a full-service, lunch-and-dinner operation. I caught up with Brown to learn more about Lusca, his cooking philosophy, and why the kings of late-night decided to take their act to Buckhead.
Tell me about Lusca.
Lusca will be focused on seasonal, ingredient-driven foods that we ourselves enjoy eating, cooking, and creating. We have been dreaming about our raw seafood program since the day we met. We both get excited about things like oysters, geoduck clams, hamachi belly, and live scallops and are looking forward to offering these things alongside the food coming out of the kitchen.
And a "lusca" is ... ?
Lusca is a giant octopus, which has been found in places like the Caribbean ... but it's rare so it has become a legend. Sort of like the Loch Ness Monster because it is real as well.
Who will be the main force in the kitchen?
I will be the executive chef. Nhan will be directing the raw program. I am so excited to have a full-time kitchen to execute my ideas and food. I have been planning the menu for the last few months and have been thinking about this place in one form or another since I was 12 years old.
Tell me about the menu you've been planning.
I love food that is thoughtful and has purpose, food that connects to memory. My menu will be focused on simple food, concentrating on dishes that I like to eat and [that] excite me. I don't believe food always needs to be classified as a type or by a country. We are influenced and excited by so many aspects of food ... history, flavor, and technique. I believe when you cook simple and concentrate on flavor these things can form a cohesive menu.
I have been working on a chicken consommé with tortellini-style dumplings modeled after a soup I ate often in Vietnam. Whole grilled and steamed fish. I always love a great dry-aged steak. I love noodles and pasta. ... Live prawns steamed with lemon grass and garlic. Halibut cheeks, lentils, and salsa verde. I love cooking lamb and goat stews when it is cold outside.
South Buckhead is quite a departure from East Atlanta Village. What made you choose to open your restaurant there?
We chose the space because of its central location. It is in the middle of the city. Close to Downtown, Spring Street, Ponce, the Westside, etc. We wanted to be somewhere where everyone could get to us. And after dinner you can always go to Octopus Bar for four or five more drinks and a second dinner.
Name the one thing about Lusca you are most excited about.
I am really excited about our lunch program. You can sit at the bar and have a dozen oysters and some raw fish and a cold beer or have a grilled piece of fish a salad and a cold pressed juice. I think it is important to have a place to get an extremely healthy and satisfying lunch and also have the option to get a serious burger.
Who's going to man Octopus Bar?
We have formed a great team at Octopus Bar. Nhan and I feel we found the perfect match in our new executive chef Duane Kulers. He understands our philosophy and style and brings a fresh approach to it at the same time. He cooks some of the best food in town and I am extremely excited to see him evolve as a chef. We also have Andy Tran in the kitchen, who is a true force. Andy is the secret weapon. He is technical, hardworking, and smart. Together they will keep Octopus Bar moving forward so it will continue to evolve.
Back to Lusca. What's it going to look like inside?
The design of the restaurant will be simple and open so the food is the main attraction. We are going to have a marble bar for the raw bar and we have been talking to an incredible carpenter/artist to create our barstools and bar. We will have one large mural done by one of our favorite graffiti artists.
When are you planning to open?
We take over the space mid December and hope to open by March 1.
Anything deep and philosophical you'd like to leave us with?
There is a very exciting movement happening in the Atlanta food scene. The next generation of chefs, bartenders waiters, restaurateurs, etc., are emerging with a great amount of energy and pride in the craft of the business. ... I wanted to create a place that has a certain type of positive energy where everyone involved is thrilled to be part of what is going on, cooking food that is focused and exciting. Nhan and I are excited to be opening our second restaurant together during this dynamic time.
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