The full bar features house cocktails with Asian flavors such as the Japanese Garden with coconut rum, matcha and lime. The draft list is highlighted by Asian-influenced beers from Hopstix owner and brewmaster Andy Tan, including Kungfu Hops IPA. There are also an intriguing sake list and a concise wine list.
The wide-open, industrial-style storefront space is accented with sturdy wood and metal tables, basket weave bamboo pendant lamps, and a hightop communal seating area surrounded by stools. The indoor-outdoor bar opens to the front patio via motorized windows. And the dramatic, glass-enclosed exhibition kitchen extends across the back wall, giving diners a view of the chefs in action.
Last week, the Wongs sat down at Hotto Hotto to talk about their backgrounds, and how they decided to open a Japanese restaurant in Grant Park.
“Hotto Hotto encompasses the idea of hot and fresh,” Angelo Wong said. “For Alice, this is her dream. This really is a passion project. She’s always dreamed of opening a restaurant like this. She started cooking when she was 10 years old. She used to watch this show ‘Yan Can Cook’ on TV. And she did other things, like running a fast-food restaurant and catering.
“But when we found this place, it just seemed like the right time and right spot for us, with all the development and growth in the Grant Park neighborhood, and along the Beltline, and all the new condominiums over here. So I told Alice, ‘Here we are. This is your dream. Let’s go for it.’ We signed the lease at the end of January, and spent a lot of time and money to build the space we have now.”
Explaining the concept, Wong said the idea was to have something for everyone, regardless of dietary restrictions. “Alice wanted to create a place where if you’re a vegetarian, or if you’re a vegan, or if you’re a meat lover, or if you have a gluten-free diet, you could eat here and enjoy it,” he said.
Besides serving as the chef, and creating the menu, Alice Wong worked with an architect to design the space, and pick out most of the interior elements, including the layout of the open kitchen.
“I just love to cook,” she said. “I cook when I’m happy. I cook when I’m sad. I cook when I want to celebrate. I’ve done so many things in my life. I’m a licensed Realtor, and I’ve done programming, and graphic design. But I was never satisfied. I just always wanted to do a restaurant, and I finally I did it.
“We want to be transparent. It’s fun to be able to see people cooking. I love going to restaurants with open kitchens. Every color, every tile, and all the wood, I picked out. I wanted to make this restaurant a little more fun and modern.”
When it finally came time to put together the opening menu, Alice Wong admitted there was more subtraction than addition.
“At first, I had a lot more items,” she said. “So I shortened it down, because I wanted the kitchen staff to get used to cooking certain things, and then I’ll add more later. We’ll be adding char siu, the Chinese barbecue. Right now, it’s the ramen. I grew up with ramen. Ramen originated in China. I’m Chinese, but I was born in Malaysia. I believe in cooking everything from scratch. The broth takes 10 to 15 hours to make. But I just love being creative, and playing with food. It’s just so much fun to me.”
1039 Grant St. SE, Suite B10, Atlanta. 404-963-2937, hottohotto.com.
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at Hotto Hotto in Grant Park
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