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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What's going on at the Spice location on Juniper Street?

I bet I get asked once a week what's going to happen to the building on Juniper Street that used to house Spice, the kind of sexy, L.A.-ish restaurant that seemed to hire and fire chefs faster than you can say, "I'd rather eat at Popeyes."

Sherry Telford of Liz Lapidus Public Relations has the answer:

Chef/Owner Chris Yeo in partnership with Grammy-award-winning artist and actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges will deliver the exotic flavors and spices of modern Singaporean cuisine with the opening of Straits Restaurant this April in the former Midtown location of Spice at 793 Juniper Street.

Yeo opened the original Straits in San Francisco in 1987 while continuing to work as a hair stylist. He has since opened several others.

Sherry has this to say about the new restaurant's cuisine:

Singaporean cooking is influenced by the many countries surrounding it and combines the bright flavors and cooking styles of Thai, Indonesian, Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Nonya cuisines. In coming to Atlanta, Yeo plans to incorporate Southern ingredients into the menu as well.

Uh, Singapore-style fried chicken? Sherry goes on:

The name comes from the Straits of Malacca, a waterway which flows between Malaysia and Singapore. It is where the lifeline of the two countries flows together, exchanging their cultures. When the Chinese men came to Singapore, there were no Chinese women, so they married the local Malaysian women. Their children became known as “Straits Chinese,” because they all settled along the Straits Waterway. Yeo’s cuisine is born from the same process of melding cultures together, hence the adaptation of the name.

The menu will feature an authentic yet modernized interpretation of Singaporean cuisine, with traditional ingredients and innovative preparations and combinations. The extensive array of small and large plates is a reflection of Yeo’s philosophy that “food should be a communal experience between friends and family.” The vivid and spicy flavors of the cuisine are well matched with the distinctive and exotic cocktails.

I bet you can't guess who's doing the 215-seat restaurant's interior design. The Johnson Studio, of course.

We're seeing a significant trend in our city back to Asian fusion cuisine. The original Pacific Rim fusion style that became popular here in the late '80s featured Asian cuisine fused with California-style cooking. My impression is that Singapore cuisine is fusion by definition and, despite the promise of some Southern notes, Yeo's cooking is probably not as off-the-wall as much of the (bad) fusion cooking of the '80s and '90s. But we'll have to wait to see.

(Photo of Chef Chris Yeo from

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