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When Thom Chantharasy closed Han Lao Last November, just after St. Louis County temporarily closed the restaurants inside, he had already introduced Laotian cuisine to the people of St. Louis two years ago, so he knew there was a market. for that.

Now, after a one-year hiatus, GDT has learned that a new iteration of Han Lao is slated to open next spring at 7219 Manchester (at Hope Avenue) in Maplewood, some corner across from Chantharasy’s other restaurant, the diminutive Robata. Located in a former Church’s Chicken restaurant, Robata has a sort of expansive menu of sushi, ramen, and 40 other Japanese entrees and entrees.

Han Lao’s original location in Brentwood (1250 Strassner) also featured a number of Thai-influenced dishes. “I always wanted to open a Laotian restaurant,” Chantharasy told SLM at this moment. “I would have made this one straight Laotian, but I feel like a lot of people still don’t know what Laos food is, even though it is very similar to Thai food. I had to. add the Thai part just to interest people. “

The formula worked. Han Lao’s menu didn’t bother to distinguish between Thai and Lao dishes, in part because the neighboring countries share so much with each other. Thus, Laotian favorites such as gay larb, thum muk huong (green papaya salad), and nam khao (the cold rice and marinated pork salad that Chantharasy remembers from his youth) share a menu space with basic Thai dishes, such as pad thai, to M Yum Hello, and buffer see uh.

The new location will associate this merger with several hubs influenced by the pandemic. As the size of the dining rooms shrinks, Chantharasy estimated that the 3,000 square foot space was too big for a modern restaurant. Han Lao 2.0 will therefore combine a take-out market and a 25-seat café.

“If you like something you ate at the cafe, you can take more of it with you for later,” Chantharasy says. “As people now prepare more meals at home, my plan is to provide ready-to-eat take-out items and even meal kits to make this job easier. “

The market will also sell sushi-grade fish (for making sushi or poke at home), as well as Asian spices, vegetables and meat, items hard to find in standard grocery stores. “You have to go to South Grand or along Olive Boulevard to find things like this,” Chantharasy says. “There’s nowhere in the middle to get them. Now there will be. In this regard, Chantharasy feels that she has discovered an empty niche.

The market will also sell bubble tea (“not much in Maplewood either,” he notes) as well as Asian beer and spirits, such as sake, Japanese whiskey, and soju. “I really feel like there’s a market for all of these things in Maplewood,” he says.

When Chantharasy owned Sekisui, the famous sushi restaurant on South Grand in Tower Grove South, customers came from all parts of the metro area. At Robata and his sister restaurant, Han Lao, he feels he can attract an even larger clientele.

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Cory E. Barnes

The author Cory E. Barnes