A Chicago-based Asian fusion concept will make its Nashville debut this fall in the ground-level space at the Icon in the Gulch condo tower where gourmet Mexican restaurant Cantina Laredo closed its doors over the weekend.
The first Sunda restaurant outside the Windy City is a partnership between two fast-growing hospitality groups — Rockit Ranch Productions Inc. of Chicago and Nashville-based Fresh Hospitality. The nearly 8,000-square-foot space that the restaurant will occupy at 592 12th Ave. S. will feature a large bar, a sushi bar and a private dining room with overall seating for roughly 250 guests.
“We have admired the city’s unique, eclectic and vibrant greatness in music, art, culinary and culture for years and are honored to contribute to the beautiful fabric of the Nashville community by launching a new Sunda location in the heart of the Gulch,” Rockit Ranch CEO Billy Dec said in a statement.
Dec, a two-time Emmy Award-winning TV personality whose acting stints have included roles on shows such as “Empire,” “Criminal Minds,” “Chicago Fire” and “American Crime Story,” oversees a company that also counts Rockit Bar & Grill and The Duck Inn among its nationally recognized restaurant concepts.
Rockit Ranch bills Sunda as an award-winning restaurant at the forefront of America’s New Asian movement, offering a modern twist on traditional culinary dishes from Japan and China plus Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines. Drink offerings include sakes, Asian beers, champagnes, wine and a seasonal craft cocktail list.
Cantina Laredo’s closing marks the latest change in an increasingly crowded Nashville-area dining scene. Amid increased competition, the region’s overall restaurant count dropped slightly last year. That was after gains of 490 restaurants since 2010 with growth each year to a total restaurant count of 5,395 in fall 2016, according to the National Restaurant Association.
“Cantina Laredo being replaced is a sign that the Gulch submarket continues to be very hot and a coveted location for retailers and restaurants wanting to enter Nashville’s best market,” said Austin Benedict, a retail broker with commercial real estate firm CBRE in Nashville who isn’t involved with Rockit Ranch’s Sunda lease.
Design firm Strada LLC was picked to bring the inspiration and spirit of Sunda’s Chicago location to the Gulch space, which is owned by Nashville-based MarketStreet Enterprises.
“Sunda will add a fresh take to the expanding culinary options in the neighborhood,” said Jay Turner, managing partner in MarketStreet Enterprises, the main developer behind revitalization of the Gulch. “Their approach to food and hospitality are both innovative and approachable; we feel that the Nashville community will embrace this concept.”
Other newcomer dining options to the Gulch include Little Octopus, Fin & Pearl, the Marsh House and two other concepts at the Thompson Nashville hotel, and celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan’s new Asian-inspired restaurant, Tánsuŏ.
Matt Bodnar is a partner at Fresh Hospitality, which counts Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, Biscuit Love and a dozen other concepts that also include Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe among its partnering brands. “We’ve known Billy for a long time and are thrilled to welcome him and his highly regarded team to Nashville, as well as to the Fresh Hospitality family,” he said, referring to Dec of Rockit Ranch.
Among accolades in its hometown, Sunda was voted the “Best Sushi in Chicago” by readers of Chicago Magazinein 2014 and was named the “Best Asian Restaurant” by the now-defunct Chicago Scene magazine. Rockit Ranch’s Rockit Bar & Grill concept was awarded “Best Burger” by “Good Morning America,” while Esquire magazine in its November 2015 issue named The Duck Inn one of the “Best New Restaurants in America.”
as originally reported on tennessean.com