Ginya Izakaya chef Hiro Endo has been named the new executive chef of Ponce de Leon Avenue restaurant 8ARM. Endo takes over for chef Maricela Vega who departs the restaurant on April 17 after nearly three years leading the kitchen there.
Along with chefs Yola Książczyk and Duy Huynh, Vega infused the menu at 8ARM with many pre-Hispanic dishes and ingredients and explored the roots of Vietnamese cooking through Huynh and Polish cuisine through Książczyk. A champion of local and sustainable food, Vega plans to carry on her family’s corn farming legacy in Mexico and eventually open her own tortilleria and masa shop.
“Over the years, 8ARM has been blessed with a beautiful rainbow of immensely creative and talented people, from a variety of backgrounds and identities,” general manager Joshua Fryer says in a prepared statement. “There is no finer example than our outgoing chef Maricela Vega.”
Endo will be joined in the kitchen by chef de cuisine Allen Suh. Suh, best known for his popular ramen and Japanese seafood pop-ups Gato Arigato and Ronen Knife, took over ownership of longtime Buford Highway Korean restaurant Donquixote in 2019. Due to insurmountable financial difficulties brought on by the pandemic, Suh ended up closing the restaurant last spring.
With Endo and Suh, the menu now shifts to more Japanese-focused dishes, including sushi, ramen, and traditional izakaya fare, and some original dishes from Suh. Endo will pull double duty, leading the kitchens at both 8ARM and the Berkeley Park restaurant. 8ARM owners chef Nhan Le and Skip Engelbrecht are also transforming the restaurant’s outdoor kitchen Sidepiece into a late-night kushiyaki/yakitori food stand. To pair with Endo’s food and the new menu at Sidepiece, Fryer is adding natural junmai sake selections to the cocktail and natural wine lists.
8ARM will close on April 18 for approximately two weeks for staff training and a minor renovation. This includes moving the standing rails in front of the restaurant to the sidewalk along Ponce to better frame the outdoor patio in the parking lot. 8ARM returns to full capacity in the dining room when it reopens in early May, with masks required for both staff and patrons.
The pandemic saw 8ARM launch a CSA program supporting small, local farms, add a bottle shop in the wine bar, and debut its outdoor kitchen and bar with a separate food menu.
“Anyone familiar with Nhan Le and Skip Engelbrecht, and 8ARM as a whole, is well aware of our tenacity and desire to continually evolve and reinvent ourselves,” says Fryer. “Like an octopus, we shift our colors and adapt to challenges and thrills. While our current chef may be leaving, and the old Paris on Ponce building may be for sale, 8ARM is here to stay.”
Update, April 15, 8 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect the addition of chef Allen Suh in the kitchen.