Madison Avenue between Second and Third has not been kind to restaurants. Mr. Hill's Southern Revue, Market Café, The Cupboard Too, Conti's, a now barely recognizable Burger King of yore — each met its demise there. Enter Thai Bistro, the successful Cordova restaurant and sushi bar. Owner Kimly Bun is looking to develop a presence downtown, and he has his sights set on that particular block of Madison Avenue.
"We're really excited about it," he says. "We're trying to make it an atmosphere similar to the one in Cordova, but we're going to pull in more of a lunch crowd, since we're right next to the First Tennessee building."
Bun says many of his loyal customers in Cordova work downtown, and they have been asking him to open another location in the business district. His East Memphis customers have asked for another location closer to them.
"My goal is to open five restaurants within the next 10 years," Bun says. "It's not feasible for me yet, but once the downtown location is up and running then I'll eventually go toward East Memphis. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to have multiple locations."
Thai Bistro on Madison will have a quick-service lunch, including five types of curry and familiar Thai specials, like his Fish Supreme (red curry tilapia) and Muai Thai beef (a sliced, marinated rib-eye). They'll also serve their signature Thai-influenced sushi, with coconut, curry, and fruit favors.
"We're going to have a bigger sushi bar than the one we have in Cordova," Bun says. "I've got a sushi chef from Atlanta to put his Atlanta vibe into it, a big-city twist on sushi here in Memphis."
A three-course lunch special will include a soup of the day, an appetizer, and an entrée for under $11. The specialty sushi rolls all ring in at $9 or less.
Bun says they will also be able to have liquor along with their wine and beer offerings, something the Cordova location does not have.
The downtown location will be open every weekday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from noon to 9 p.m.
Bun hopes to be open in late June or early July.
Thai Bistro, 149 Madison (343-0303)
Wang's Mandarin House, an old favorite on Park in East Memphis, is adding a twist to their tried-and-true Chinese cuisine. Not only has the restaurant added a new sushi bar, but they recently expanded into the former Park Place Cleaners next door. This Friday they will unveil their new bar: East Tapas & Drinks.
"We wanted it to be more contemporary and relaxing," owner Shelly Ansley says. "Wang's is exactly the same. We just changed the concept of the bar."
Ansley's daughter Lisa recently returned from traveling and suggested that Wang's could make a few changes to stay fresh.
"She said Memphis needs something like that," Ansley says. "She wants to have a lot of different wines and serve a lot of unique dishes."
Lisa has taken charge of the new tapas menu, bringing into play the variety of cuisines she encountered on her trip, from Korean to Chinese.
East Tapas and Drinks will serve liquor, wine, and beer. The tapas plates will range in price from $6 to $9. The bar will have the same hours as Wang's: every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Wang's Mandarin House, 6065 Park (763-0676)