Helen Schwab

CO: Welcome to the neighborhood

The dramatic interior.
The dramatic interior. HELEN SCHWAB

The food: CO, which opened in Charleston in 2012 and has since added sites in Savannah and Myrtle Beach, calls its fare “Pan-Asian.”

That essentially means a little of this, a little of that, but the name is the Vietnamese word for feast, and Vietnam does slightly dominate the diverse lineup.

And not just with banh mi (sandwiches) and pho (rice noodles and meat in broth): Look! There’s green papaya salad! And bun bo hue! It’s an interesting, and welcome, edit. Also represented by more than a swipe: Japan. The rest are more passing references: Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, the Pacific Rim.

We had a terrific, lip-flaming bowl of bun bo hue (rice vermicelli, brisket, lemongrass pork, chile broth) and an interesting Korean-tinged makimono (think rolled sushi) of hamachi (yellowtail), kimchi and yuzu-flavored masago.

I’ll definitely be back for the green papaya salad, which I expect might really be as incendiary as it should be.

Half our banh mi excelled (the caramel pork done with fish sauce, beautifully, and the cilantro) and half decidedly didn’t (chewy, not crispy baguette; wan cucumber), and a tofu summer roll was dismally dull. But the range is intriguing enough to lure anyone, especially with ...

The look: Just ... wow. CO’s windows were so dark when we approached, I thought it was closed.

But I rather hope that’s permanent, because when you open the door and see the sweeping stylized “tree” sculpture that frames the dining room? Well, Toto, we’re not in Park Road Shopping Center anymore.

Comfortable, clean-lined bar stools, spots of vivid red upholstery, enough light to see your menu and your food – I’m not sure about the black-white-red artwork, but the rest is a relief from sameness.

The service: Still a lot to work out here. Slow – but our server warned us of that immediately, and let us decide whether to stay. Mistake-prone, but again, suitably apologetic and explanatory.

Everyone was congenial and moving quickly.

The details: Lunch (scheduled to begin Friday) and dinner daily; about $5-$15; 4201 Park Road; eatatco.com; 980-237-4655.

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