Grazing: First Look: Zen on Ten Asian Bistro

Plus, Sauced opens on Edgewood Avenue

When I walked through the door of the new Zen on Ten Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar (1000 Northside Drive at Tenth Street, 404-879-0999), I was – to my surprise – immediately greeted by the owner and introduced to the bartender as his "best customer."

That was a bit of hyperbole but it's true that I have eaten regularly at Tom Phing's original restaurant, the King & I at Ansley Square, for most of the 30-plus years it has been open. It was among the first Thai restaurants in Atlanta, opening long before the cuisine became the city's favorite ethnic food.

I have many bittersweet memories of the King & I. It was the place I frequently went with friends after the countless funerals we attended in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. In fact, I dined there every week for several years with three friends, all of whom ended up dying themselves. But my memories aren't all painful. I attended as many birthday dinners there, too, including one of my own, after which the police detained me. Long story.

Zen on Ten is Phing's most ambitious project yet. He opened (now defunct) Pad Thai in Virginia-Highland some years back and was involved with his brother in establishing Mali on Amsterdam. Phing confided to me that part of his motivation in opening Zen is his fear that Ansley Square won't be around much longer. He said all leases there have a six-month cancellation clause.

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(Photo by James Camp)