Brothers Henry and Chai Eang opened their first Basil restaurant in Charleston a decade ago and have added locations in Charlotte and Mount Pleasant.
The brothers had been considering expanding to Columbia in a couple of years, Chai Eang said, but found the right fit earlier than expected at Cross Hill. “I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.
The restaurant draws a similar demographic to Whole Foods, Chai Eang said, and has a like-minded business philosophy of health-consciousness and serving fresh, high-quality food. Bringing retailers and restaurants to the center that complement each other has been a goal for Columbia-based Edens, a major East Coast shopping-center developer and manager.
Chai Eang liked what he saw in plans for the center, which also includes Charleston Cooks!, Nadeau Furniture and M Boutique, among others.
“I believe in synergy,” Chai Eang said. “We help each other.”
Columbia’s Basil will serve the same dishes as the other locations, based on the family recipes of executive chef Suntom Cherdchoogarm, or Chef Sunny.
While the restaurant features traditional Thai food, Chai Eang said it is not as spicy as the authentic version because tastes differ in the Southeast.
Still, he said, diners can expect rich, flavorful dishes, featuring traditional fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. The restaurant will offer an expansive menu, serving noodle dishes, such as Pad Thai, some curry dishes and entrees, including Basil Duck and Three-Flavored Fish. It also will have with appetizers, desserts and cocktails and wine.
Chef Ivan Rodriguez will move from the Charlotte location to cook at the restaurant.
Basil will start off serving dinner. Most entrees range from $16 to $20, but go higher when appetizers or wine are added. Lunch will be added closer to the end of the year, with entrees averaging $10 to $12.
The Columbia restaurant will have a different look from the Basils that food lovers who travel to Charleston and Charlotte remember. But it will have the signature chef’s bar, which allows customers to watch the entire kitchen operation through a glass partition.
“It’s kind of like a symphony, almost,” Eang said. “Most of the people who sit there are mesmerized by the whole thing.”
The chef’s bar was born at the original Basil location in Charleston to make use of a diner bar in the building that formerly housed a Huddle House. But it has become a signature feature in all Basil restaurants.
The Neil Stevenson-designed restaurant — at 3,250 square feet — will be roughly the same size as the Basil in Charlotte. It will employ about 35 people initially and seat about 100, Eang said. Eventually, it will include an outdoor seating area that will seat another 45 diners.
K&W looking to enter Columbia market
In other restaurant news, K&W Cafeteria president Dax Allred confirmed Friday the restaurant is looking to expand into the Columbia market.
“We’re scouting different options,” he said.
Allred said the 75-year-old Winston-Salem, N.C.,-based chain looked at the former S&S Cafeteria location in Richland Mall about a year ago but still is looking for the right fit.
K&W has five locations in South Carolina, including one in Greenville and four in the Myrtle Beach area.
“We’ve wanted to be in Columbia for a while,” Allred said.