Food Terminal, the latest brand from chefs Amy Wong and Howie Ewe of the burgeoning Asian bakery chain Sweet Hut and restaurants such as Top Spice in Toco Hill, is influenced by Malaysia’s diverse culinary culture.
But the huge array of Asian street food-style items on offer, along with the contemporary design of the sprawling space, set it apart from almost any other concept on the current Atlanta restaurant scene, unless you compare it to a food hall.
Located in a brand-new building at the front of the City Farmers Market shopping center on Buford Highway in Chamblee, at first blush the setup looks like a cafeteria.
Food Terminal is in fact full-service, though, inviting guests to peruse tempting color photos and travelogue-like descriptions of many of the 125 menu items by flipping through the pages of a glossy magazine, before checking off selections by the number on an order sheet.
Among the highlights, you’ll find classics such as poached, bone-in Hainanese Chicken served with a fragrant chicken stock rice and soy sauce.
And then there are new twists, like Cheese’ N Cheese, a tomato-braised fried rice combo, loaded with egg, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, bacon, grilled spam, corn, red and spring onions, shallots, and bell peppers, served in a hot cast-iron bowl.
Last week, Amy Wong and her daughter Rachel Ewe were at Food Terminal to talk about the concept and cooking.
“Malaysia is a very multicultural country,” Ewe said. “About 50 percent of the population is Malaysian, and like 25 percent Chinese, and 20 percent Indian. That shows up in the food with Chinese and Indian influence and things like noodles and curry.
“We wanted to make the menu at Food Terminal like a Malaysian market with different stalls but at a sit-down restaurant. People can take their time and order different things and enjoy having a group at the table. And we’ll be getting a beer and wine license in the next two weeks, with Asian beers and local beers, and some sake, too.”
Wong, who began her cooking career selling street-style noodles in Malaysia, said that in many ways, Food Terminal is the culmination of her life story, and things like Grandma BBQ Pork, Hainanese Chicken and Thai Chili Ground Pork Cheong Fun are examples of signature dishes she picked up along the way.
“The Grandma BBQ Pork is from a family recipe and it’s our most famous dish,” Wong said. “The Hainanese Chicken is more like a traditional dish that came from China to Malaysia. It’s very tender and the rice is cooked with chicken broth and ginger, garlic, tamarind and lemongrass. Cheong Fun is a soft rice roll that you see for dim sum. We add Thai chili so it’s more of a fusion.”
Ewe said first-time guests are often surprised by the look of the restaurant and the size of the menu, but both were part of the plan from the beginning.
“We wanted this to be like an everyday eatery where people can come for breakfast or lunch, or an afternoon snack or dinner,” she said. “And because of the diversity of everything, you can come every day and never get bored.”
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