Chef's Table - Chinese character

Asian restaurant impresario Steven Chan moved from Hong Kong to Atlanta in 1988 to study architecture and building construction at Georgia Tech in 1988. His dynasty grew in May 2005 with the addition of swanky Sampan.

Creative Loafing: So how'd you leap from building to owning restaurants?

Chan: It was kind of by surprise. I never would have thought I would be a restaurateur. During the mid-1990s, my wife's brother was a chef in a Thai restaurant. We did a Thai place together in Duluth and a few neighborhood Thai Diners in Vinings and Norcross and Peachtree City. One thing led to another.

So how'd you make the decision to come inside the Perimeter?

When the Tech campus was expanding, I had the opportunity to do a noodle house in Tech Square, Tim Drum Cafe. Noodle houses in Hong Kong are mostly outdoor, you know, eat on the curb, slurp noodles. I took an outdoor concept and made it totally indoors. I consider it very personal — my first restaurant.

And then came Sampan.

After that, I really wanted to do upscale Chinese with my partner/chef Howard Cheun. Chinese restaurants here are not really a true representation of what they are supposed to be. Most people think Chinese food is bland and Thai has more kicks and spices. Chinese cuisine has been forgotten here, but it's a world-class cuisine.

Sampan's interiors are sumptuous.

It was inspired by a movie called An Autumn's Tale. In that movie, a man and woman come together in romance and he opens a restaurant at the end of a pier called Sampan.

Sampan is a sailing boat and it's the official symbol of Hong Kong. It blends old and new world. There's a lot of mirrors and glass, which are common elements in true Chinese restaurants.

And the bar?

It will open on Sept. 15. It's called Suzy Wong's. Suzy Wong was a showgirl who wore beautiful Mandarin gowns. She made the sky light up.


Sampan, 1198 Howell Mill Road. 404-367-8333. www.sampanrestaurant.com.

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