Atlanta Orders In: Cajun meets Asian at Richard Tang’s new Girl Diver

Girl Diver's barbecue octopus comes with red cabbage purée, rice grits, XO vinaigrette and chili butter. Courtesy of Girl Diver
Girl Diver's barbecue octopus comes with red cabbage purée, rice grits, XO vinaigrette and chili butter. Courtesy of Girl Diver

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Richard Tang, the owner of Char Korean Bar & Grill in Inman Park, is the son of a Chinese chef father and Vietnamese chef mother.

Tang’s restaurants are known as fun, often irreverent destinations, where having a good time is as important as the food. And, he’s usually at the center of the festivities.

However, early in the pandemic, Tang let his employees run Char, while he quarantined with his family for some 90 days.

During that time, he founded a Facebook group, Quarantine Cuisine, where he goes live with cooking demonstrations, welcomes online guests, and mixes cocktails while cracking jokes.

ExploreMore Atlanta Orders In
Among the offerings from Girl Diver are fried spring rolls with pork, shrimp, onions, mushrooms and chile lime XO sauce. Courtesy of Girl Diver
Among the offerings from Girl Diver are fried spring rolls with pork, shrimp, onions, mushrooms and chile lime XO sauce. Courtesy of Girl Diver

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“I started Quarantine Cuisine right at the beginning of the quarantine in Atlanta,” Tang said. “I just got tired of listening to the constant daily bad news. So, I decided to have a happy hour for me and my friends on Facebook.”

It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Tang used the seclusion to work on recipes for Girl Diver — his new Cajun-meets-Asian restaurant, which soft-opened in mid-December.

“It was a concept I wanted to do for a while,” Tang said. “My mom’s Vietnamese, and I wanted to do something that showcased a lot of her recipes. COVID allowed me to stay at home for 90 days and perfect all her recipes, and some of mine, and get the flavor profiles down.”

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This 8-ounce filet mignon order from Girl Diver features a frisée salad and marinated tomatoes. Courtesy of Girl Diver
This 8-ounce filet mignon order from Girl Diver features a frisée salad and marinated tomatoes. Courtesy of Girl Diver

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Examples range from shaking beef, Vietnamese chicken wings and papaya salad, to pork belly, black bean pork noodles and red curry with chicken thighs.

“Those are all dishes I ate growing up in New York,” Tang said, “but we would go visit my uncle in D.C., and we’d go out to Maryland by the water and grab bushels and bushels of crab and boil it with Old Bay. It was a treat for me, cracking them open with a hammer.”

At Girl Diver, you can order crab, crawfish, mussels, shrimp and lobster tails by the pound, or in party platters with sausages, corn on the cob and potatoes.

As nostalgic — and even rustic — as that side of the menu can be, the Vietnamese dishes are sophisticated, and the restaurant’s design and decor are stylish.

Tang said he wanted to offer “traditional-style food, flavor-wise, but then I wanted to make it pretty, too, with French-style plating. I thought that it worked really well to have Southeast Asian food done with a French flair. And, we have a sexy bar, and a great beverage program, too.”

ExploreMaking fried rice with Richard Tang
Girl Diver's key lime baked Atlanta comes with torched meringue. Courtesy of Girl Diver
Girl Diver's key lime baked Atlanta comes with torched meringue. Courtesy of Girl Diver

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

In addition to running two restaurants, Tang is keeping Quarantine Cuisine going on Facebook, because it has helped him cope with the pandemic, and he believes it’s helping others.

“I felt like we were able to help a lot of people out and give them an outlet,” he said. “As humans, we are social. So, I decided to give them some normalcy in a non-normal year. But, what is normal now? I think the pandemic has definitely brought a lot of light to things. And, with what is bad, there is good.”

GIRL DIVER

Menu: Cajun-Asian

Alcohol: beer, wine and cocktails for dine-in and takeout

What I ordered: fried spring rolls with pork, shrimp and chile lime XO sauce; barbecue octopus, poached and marinated in aromatics, smoked, glazed with maple XO, and grilled a la plancha; red curry with chicken thighs, carrots, potatoes and spicy coconut curry broth; shaking beef filet mignon, served with a salad of charred pearl onions, marinated cherry tomatoes, crispy shallots, herbs and XO dressing; key lime baked Atlanta with torched meringue. I mostly went for the Vietnamese-inspired dishes, which were excellent, but I want to try one of the Cajun-Asian seafood boils next time.

Service options: indoor, outdoor, takeout; call or go online for takeout; reservations at Resy

Outdoor dining: heated patio with 30 seats

Mask policy: employees wear masks; customers encouraged to wear masks when not seated

Address, phone: 955 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta; 404-525-2424

Hours: noon-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; noon-midnight Fridays; 11 a.m.-midnight Saturdays; 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. Sundays.

Website: girldiveratlanta

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