Holy Basil, the Downtown takeout window from chef Wedchayan “Deau” Arpapornnopparat and partner Tongkamal “Joy” Yuon, built a legion of devoted fans for its unabashedly bold Thai cooking during the height of the pandemic. As the world was at a standstill in those first tumultuous months after the restaurant opened, Holy Basil’s fiery curries and wok-fired noodles served as a balm for weary bellies and a bright spot during a starkly bleak time.
Now, the duo is opening a second location on a bustling stretch of Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village on Thursday, January 25, following more than two years of construction and costs amounting to $350,000. Spanning just 788 square feet with a total of 20 seats inside and outside, the new Holy Basil will borrow culinary elements from the original Fashion District location, including a core menu of curries, noodles, and rice dishes, along with seafood specialties. Arpapornnopparat’s recipes are rooted in hazy Bangkok memories (where he lived before attending college in Connecticut), but pay little mind to “authenticity.” “I don’t even know what that means anymore,” he says. “It tastes Thai 100 percent and it’s a Holy Basil way of food.”
To cater to locals in a neighborhood that feels more suburban, the restaurant will serve brunch Friday through Sunday with Thai-style egg omelets, rice porridge, and hefty brick toast on the menu. Additionally, it will operate a small market stocked with wine, condiments, spices, and more. The market and brunch will both debut a month or so after the restaurant’s opening. “We want to embed Holy Basil to whatever the neighborhood vibe is,” says Arpapornnopparat.
Most notably, the latest Holy Basil will operate a “raw bar” along its eight-seat counter that serves the greatest hits from Downtown’s weekends-only Yum pop-ups, like a wild shrimp aguachile, fragrant oyster salad, and Dungeness crab curry. Arpapornnopparat noticed a dearth of affordable sushi restaurants while scoping out the neighborhood and wanted to offer something for folks desiring minimally fussed-with seafood. Full service will be available throughout the day, whether diners are perched along the counter, seated at one of four indoor tables, or stationed on the patio.
Holy Basil remains steadfast in its commitment to delivering the “best” Thai food using carefully sourced ingredients. “We know exactly what’s coming in, where it’s coming from, all the way to eggs and vegetables,” Arpapornnopparat says. Traceable and sustainable seafood and locally raised Jidori chickens are just the start: Arpapornnopparat says he tours all production facilities before purchasing from any vendor to ensure that everything is up to his standards. He makes curry pastes and sauces from scratch when possible and refuses to double or triple recipes to increase output while potentially lowering quality. “We only make one order per pan,” he says. “When you order, it’s just one, that’s yours.”
Elliott Wang, formerly of Everson Royce Bar, will continue to spearhead Holy Basil’s beverage menu, which will feature natural wine, sake, and other rice wines once the alcohol license comes through. Nonalcoholic options include Thai-inspired cocktails from the Base, a beverage company that Arpapornnopparat and Yuon founded together in 2016. The success of the business, which shares some employees with Holy Basil, has given the restaurant the sturdy financial footing to expand without relying on external investors thus far.
In the months ahead, Arpapornnopparat and Yuon will streamline food and service in Downtown and Atwater Village based on customer feedback. If brunch proves to be a hit at the new place, the daytime fare could trickle to Downtown. If the market is embraced by the community, future locations in similar settings could get one too. The big idea is to have operations running smoothly at both restaurants in order to expand the brand in the future. “We should be able to just copy and paste the same structure to another place,” Arpapornnopparat says. If things go according to his plan, nearly every neighborhood across Los Angeles will have its own Holy Basil. A third location in Santa Monica at Yale Street and Santa Monica Boulevard is up next, while a tasting menu restaurant that serves Thai-drinking food and “cool dishes for a small amount of people” is slated for Melrose Hill later this year, says Arpapornnopparat.
But for now, the two are settling into Atwater Village and focused on making a solid first impression. “When we started Holy Basil, we wanted to be the best Thai food,” Arpapornnopparat says. “Whatever that means, we’re gonna find a way to do it.”
Holy Basil is located at 3170 Glendale Boulevard, Unit C, Los Angeles, CA 90039, and is open with limited hours from January 25 to February 4 (follow Instagram for the latest opening hours). Regular opening hours are Monday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.