Girl Diver, the seafood-driven restaurant from Char Korean Bar and Grill owner chef Richard Tang, opened at the Madison Yards development on Memorial Drive after months of delays due to the pandemic. Set along the newly extended Eastside Beltline trail in Atlanta’s Reynoldstown neighborhood, Girl Diver specializes in Southeast Asian-meets Cajun fare in its seafood-by-the pound dishes and shareable party platters.
Tang says he considers Girl Diver to be a “high-end” take on a seafood house. Woodblock print “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai inspired the design for the restaurant. Hokusai may be best known for his series of woodblock prints called “the Great Wave of Kanagawa”. The dining room features 3D bead flooring throughout meant to emulate the ocean, an indoor-outdoor bar opening to a large heated patio, and custom-designed tables that come apart in the middle for discarding shells.
Girl Diver’s name pays tribute to the nearly 2,000-year-old tradition of Japanese and Korean women free divers known as ama and haenyeo (sea woman) who collect pearls, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and abalone from the bottom of the ocean.
Led by chef Karl Gorline (Watershed) in the kitchen, Girl Diver features by-the-pound seafood, Chinese-Vietnamese comfort food dishes, and a section offering a variety of seafood platters for sharing. The latter section includes a rather eye-catching seafood assortment called the PhD platter composed of mermaid eggs, Nemo, a siren, and Aquaman’s beard hair for a whopping $9,999. Tang calls the fantastical seafood platter “a joke” meant to poke fun at restaurants that unironically list items on menus like a $10,000 cocktail served with a two-karat diamond. The menu notes the PhD platter as “usually 86’d.”
Nasturtium shrimp spring rolls
Gorline describes the spring rolls at Girl Diver as herbal and floral, stuffed with a combination of poached shrimp, rice noodles, daikon radishes, carrots, and cucumbers. He laminates the outside of the spring rolls with nasturtium flowers and serves the dish with a side of chile-lime XO sauce.
Gorline smokes the octopus over hickory chips and then barbecues the mollusk with a maple-sherry XO gastrique. He serves the octopus with popcorn rice grits, maitake mushrooms, red cabbage puree, and chile butter. “It’s like a play on Chinese sausage, but with octopus,” Gorline says. “So, it’s loaded with flavor. The most tender, delicious octopus in town. I stand by that a million percent.”
Slow-braised pork belly
This dish features pork belly brined for 24-hours and then slow-cooked in its own fat. Gorline serves it with charred carrots, a coconut soda reduction, and a poached egg. He tops the pork belly with a dusting of crab fat creole carrot powder. “That dish is also our version and our interpretation of a traditional Vietnamese dish called thit kho,” says Tang.
Lobster mac and cheese
“It’s got a smoky, crunchy flare,” says Gorline of the macaroni and cheese made with knuckle and claw lobster meat. The sauce for this dish includes a butter-base and incorporates house-smoked gruyere, white truffle oil, chives, and furikake seasoning. Gorline adds a healthy sprinkling of bacon pieces to round out the mac and cheese.
Key lime-baked Atlanta
Tang and Gorline pay homage to the old seafood houses of yore with this twist on the classic baked Alaska. At Girl Diver, the baked Atlanta features key lime mousse and toasted meringue topped with a dusting of kaffir lime powder.
Open for limited dine-in and patio service. Sunday - Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Masks highly encouraged. Takeout available.
905 Memorial Drive, Ste 510, Atlanta. girldiveratlanta.com.