Hasta la vista, INC Street Food. You were fun while it lasted.
Now owners Hicham Azhari and Fikret Kovac have determined it’s time for a newer, snazzier concept for the choice location at 945 Canton Street in Roswell.
“It was a very, very hard decision to make,” Azhari said last week before INC closed its doors for good on Monday.
“It was still profitable, and we are looking for a spot in Sandy Springs or Buckhead to reopen it.” So why pull the plug, if only temporarily, on a perfectly fine restaurant in one of metro Atlanta’s hottest dining districts?
“Fikret and I had a lot of ideas for a new concept and we searched for a place here in Roswell to do it but couldn’t find one that would work,” Azhari said. “This location is best, because frankly, there has been a lot of competition coming into the area and we want to stay ahead of the curve.”
The two restaurateurs have enjoyed nothing but success since they opened Little Alley Tapas and Restaurant in 2005 and then Red Salt – now called Salt Factory – at the corner of Canton and Webb streets in 2008.
INC Street Food was born the following year. The ambitious Latin-themed menu, which included dishes such as calamari stuffed with oxtail and barbecued octopus, was the brainchild of Chef Richard Wilt, but when Wilt left, the menu gradually settled into more standard Hispanic territory, with a focus on top drawer Mexican fare and well-made Margaritas.
After closing Little Alley Tapas when its lease expired in a nondescript strip center off of Holcomb Bridge Road, Azhari and Kovac gave its name to a premium steak house they opened last year across Canton from their other two eateries. Doing business as F&H Food Trading Group, with chef Robert McDonough as their culinary director, the partners have a vision for INC’s space that is more upscale in both atmosphere and menu.
It’s called Opulent, and its style falls somewhere between the laid-back gastropub appeal of Salt and the wonderfully indulgent gourmet meat paradise that is Little Alley Steak.
Globe lighting, walls lined with antique mirrors and crystal accents, distressed and silvered wood panels in the front dining area and diamond-shaped white tiles and dark brown woods in the rear will raise the sophistication ante for what was once a very casual space. Leather banquettes, booths and a few tables and a revamped bar will complete the new look.
The beverage list will have a tribute to INC. Street Food with a margarita for two; a bubbly flute of pomegranate, Cava sparkling wine and rosemary; and the Canton Rose, a meld of Four Roses whiskey, mint and fresh pineapple.
McDonough will helm Opulent’s kitchen with executive chef Andrew Long.
He characterizes the menu as “a lot of Italian and French influences with Southern and New Orleans flair. I want to keep the concept open, but not too far off the beaten path.”
Look for some modern cooking techniques such as sous vide and a judicious use of molecular gastronomy. The idea is for cuisine that will be approachable and tasty for the average diner yet bold and adventurous enough to satisfy the most discerning palates. Think salmon crudo with Thai chili peppers, Satsuma orange, ponzu and sesame oil powder; crispy eggplant fries and beef cheek pastrami with fennel pollen, white mustard and a thin, crisp savory rye wafer.
Entrees will include Sapelo Island clams and andouille sausage, serrano peppers and smoked paprika as well as West Coast cioppino with shrimp, scallops, clams, market fish and lobster broth. One item sure to be almost an instantaneous hit is a hangar steak of American Kobe beef. Originally designed to export back to Japan, this beef comes from just a handful of domestic Wagyu beef on a. Japanese owned and operated northern California ranch.
Prices for entrees are expected to start around $17.
Azhari said Opulent should be open by mid-April.