When Thai Esane came to Brentwood in the winter of 2021, Williamson County rejoiced. While the area’s food choices have no doubt increased over the years, quality options made with locals in mind have been lacking.
For more than a year now, the Thai Esane location in Hill Center Brentwood has been serving locals its blend of Thai and Laos culture through food. Owner Nina Singto and her husband opened the first Thai Esane location on 12th Ave. S. in Nashville in 2014 — that location moved to a prime spot on Music Row in downtown Nashville.
Since opening in Brentwood last year, the Singtos have also opened another restaurant in the heart of downtown at the Food Assembly Hall. Her family started King Market, the staple Thai restaurant in Antioch where Singto worked for a number of years. (It must be noted they have the best crispy chicken wings in Nashville.)
Singto says after noticing so many patrons from all over coming downtown for Thai Esane’s food, they started to explore the food demographics across Middle Tennessee.
“Brentwood just seemed to be the natural next step for us,” she says. “Now the local guests we’ve come to know and love have our food much closer. As for us, we gain a wider audience and new patrons by word of mouth.”
The location in Brentwood includes more than 3,500 square feet of space, with both indoor seating and patio space outside. It’s a beautiful place to sit down with family and friends and have a meal. And there’s really no other food like it in the county.
Like its locations in Nashville, Thai Esane serves favorite specialties such as drunken noodles (get it hot), larb chicken wrap, papaya salad, Bangkok wings, pineapple boat fried rice, Malaysian noodles, sausage and more. It’s the appropriate stop for brunch, lunch or dinner. Unlike it’s Nashville locations, parking can be a little easier.
It’s also an excellent option to grab for take out when you want something quick and packed with veggies for the family. But it is also great if the house is packed with out-of-town guests and you want an easy and impressive dinner. (There are a couple less adventurous items for your nephew or sister-in-law who may only eat fried rice.)
Singto herself says she just enjoys food in general.
“I am just a food lover,” Singto says. “There’s no denying that. Having the perfect restaurant experience with the right ambiance, a multitude of flavors amongst dishes, and great attentive service … you can’t beat it!”
The Kao Soi, a curry-based soup with egg noodles, cabbage and carrots, topped with red onion, is one of Singto’s favorite items on the menu. It’s packed with flavor, both savory and sweet.
“I spent a lot of sleepless nights perfecting that recipe,” she says. “For that dish to have built the small fan base as it has, I am extremely proud.”
Singto calls the dry sukiyaki an underdog on the menu, saying that many who come in may miss out on it by choosing something more traditional. If you’re looking for something new, don’t sleep on the sukiyaki.
“Our sukiyaki is a complex dish due to the custom sauce that is added to our delicious chicken broth,” she says of the dish, which is made with a translucent stir fried noodle, carrots, celery, Napa cabbage and peanut sauce. “It’s a family recipe that inhabits everything from garlic to peanut. It’s a definite game changer for those who try it for the first time.”
Singto says opening the Brentwood location has been both rewarding and surprising.
“Brentwood has definitely kept us on our toes,” Singto says. “We knew from our 12th South and Division patrons that there was a demand, but we were not sure what shoes we would have to fill.”
The community in Brentwood has high expectations for food, she says.
“We are pleased to see that they have welcomed us with open arms.”
THE MUST-HAVE MEAL
If you find yourself in Hill Center with a friend, this is the perfect meal to split.
The spicy edamame ($6) on the appetizer menu is a terrific starter, if your date can handle a little spice. It’s enough of a kick to get you started, but not so much that you can’t taste what’s coming next.
Next grab a papaya salad ($9) — a lovely palate cleanser that has shredded papaya, carrots, tomatoes, lime juice, fish sauce and crushed peanuts.
A great pair to share is a curry and then another entree. I like the green curry ($16) because it's both sweet and has an extra kick of heat. The drunken noodles with extra veggies ($14 plus a little) or the basil eggplant ($16) are also a great addition, often so delicious the next day with some steamed rice.
The caramelized milk toast with vanilla ice cream ($9) can finish things off. It may just cool you a bit after all that heat, but it can’t be guaranteed.