Remember the excitement, the hubbub, the general hype surrounding the 2002 opening of One Midtown Kitchen? It was the beginning of an era; Bob Amick and the rest of the Concentrics team were just setting out to redefine the Atlanta dining scene.
Actually, I don't remember that at all. I wasn't in Atlanta then, and I'm often grateful I arrived at the tail end of the glam-is-God phase of restaurant development in this city.
What I do remember is SAGA.
In late 2006, a strange, unassuming restaurant opened on Crescent Avenue with a chef named Drew Van Leuvan. The concept was weird: South Africa meets Georgia. The food with influences from the south of two continents struggled to define itself clearly. Despite the sometimes lack of definition, Van Leuvan was able to shine. In my 2007 review of SAGA, I said, "Van Leuvan is a chef whose talent is worthy of main-attraction status." My only complaint was that he labored under the task of preserving the owners' dreams of presenting South African food to Southern diners. "Van Leuvan's own cooking, unadorned by theme, can be a thing to behold," I wrote. I hoped for the day when I'd come across this chef in a kitchen where he didn't have to filter his cooking through any particular lens or gimmick.
(Photo by James Camp)
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