Mali Hu, the restaurateur behind the One Sushi+ in Brookhaven and Katana on Lenox Road in Buckhead, recently opened Monkey 68 on Green Street, a stone’s throw from bustling Canton Street in historic Roswell.
Dubbed “Refined Asian” — and named for Hu’s Chinese zodiac sign and birth year — the restaurant serves up a contemporary combination of Chinese, Japanese and Korean dishes, with an emphasis on sushi, small plates and cocktails.
While many of the offerings carry over from the greatest hits of One Sushi and Katana, the menu branches out in some new ways.
There are takes on classics such as baked Korean spiced ribs and sweet chili. And fun stuff like yellowtail tuna shooters served in shot glasses with jalapeños, cilantro, Sriracha, radish, balsamic pearls, and honey yuzu.
Beyond that, the setting in a modest cottage, with a newly planted Japanese waterfall garden out front, called for a different, more comfy atmosphere, Hu noted last week during a conversation at the bar at Monkey 68.
“We’ve been doing a lot of restaurants over the years, and we just feel like it’s time to settle down,” Hu said. “This is our own property, and everything is our own design, and our own creation.
“I want customers to come in and feel like they’re guests coming to my home. And I’m serving food that has a more homey feel. But at every restaurant that we do, we want to bring some things from our other restaurants.”
Hu was born in Korea, and raised in Taiwan, then came to the U.S. as a student, earning a master’s degree and working as a CPA before getting into the restaurant business with her husband, George Muh.
“We’re doing a lot of different things from our backgrounds, with Chinese, Japanese and Korean,” Hu said. “It’s almost more like tapas-style here. People can enjoy their time and kind of explore the menu.
“The kitchen and sushi bar are two different components. And we have the bar. A lot of people come and just want a drink, but then they have an appetizer, and then they want more to eat.”
Hu also is the creative force behind the cocktail menu, mixing spirits and Asian ingredients in the likes of the Monkey See Monkey Drink, with Iron Buddha oolong tea-infused rum, osmanthus syrup, amaro, creme de mure liqueur, lemon and egg white.
“Each one of the 12 cocktails is based on a Chinese zodiac sign. I use different Asian ingredients in each one, and I try to tie the flavors in with the animal characters,” Hu said. “We make a lot of shrubs and infusions with things like honey and tea.”
Though Monkey 68 has been open for only a little over a month, it’s already developing a local following, with regulars who gather at the cocktail and sushi bars during the week.
“We have one customer who I think has been here six times, already,” Hu said. “It’s like his house now, too. He knows everybody. And the word-of-mouth is really good when people come in and order things their friends told them about.”
Even though they settled down in Roswell, the next restaurant from Hu and Muh, Tokyo Belly, is set to open in the fall in the new Peachtree Crossing development in Chamblee, featuring a lively mix of sushi, Asian street food and a full bar.
“The space is a little bigger, and we have a huge patio,” Hu said. “It should be really fun.”
1073 Green St., Roswell. 770-587-3277, monkey68atl.com.
More images from a First Look Monkey 68 in Roswell
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.