Thai Basil fills the void left by a local favorite
Thai Basil121 Broadway St.
Chico, CA 95928
When I heard the rumor that Thai House was no more, I stopped in my tracks. My favorite Thai restaurant in Chico was closing its doors? No. This couldn’t be possible. I wouldn’t let it happen. I mean, that’s where the Gyuto monks eat lunch when they come through Chico …
Shortly thereafter, I learned that the owner had indeed sold the business to some of her employees, and they would be taking over with almost no interruption. What was there to do but check out the new restaurant that opened in its place?
I ventured to the restaurant now known as Thai Basil for a late solitary lunch, book in hand. I don’t do this often enough, and was looking forward to an hour of uninterrupted reading and eating time. Dining alone can be an exquisite experience, and I often feel I enjoy the meal more completely without the interruption of conversation or the distraction of a dining companion.
Upon entering Thai Basil, I noticed they had painted the walls, giving the interior a warm glow, put in new carpet and gotten new chairs and tables. The refurbished interior is elegant and refined. Classical Thai music played softly while I got to pick any table I desired. The whole restaurant to myself! I ordered a pot of green tea from the waiter, who informed me about the restaurant’s change of hands, and assuaged my worries when he said most of the menu is very similar to that of Thai House. I ordered the sweet nut curry (also known as Masaman curry) plate with tofu ($6.95). The curry plates are served with steamed jasmine rice and your choice of tofu, chicken, beef, pork or prawns, with a slight variation in price. My dish arrived quickly, piping hot and aesthetically pleasing.
The flavor combination of tofu simmered in Masaman curry with coconut milk, carrots, onion, peanuts and potatoes was swoon-inducing. Served with one of the most delightful spring rolls I’ve had in a long time, thanks to the addition of sweet corn, my meal was superb.
Quiet and peaceful, the late lunch hours at Thai Basil are perfect to take yourself out for an affordable lunch and some well-deserved quality time with your favorite reading material. I couldn’t fit dessert in, so I took it home. The sticky black rice with mango ($4.95) was perfect; the black rice adds a nuttiness and a certain heartiness to the sweet dish that white rice simply can’t mimic. I wouldn’t mind seeing it served with a whole mango, instead of just a half—but you can’t have everything, and I’m fine with that.
On my next visit, I went to dinner with a friend, who happens to be a fellow Thai food aficionado. We sampled the spring rolls ($5.95) as appetizers at my urging. Just as good as the teaser I had earlier in the week, the rolls are vegetarian, stuffed with mixed vegetables and herbs, and served with sweet and sour sauce.
For entrées, I chose green curry with salmon ($10.95) while my friend went with spicy noodles with tofu ($8.95). After the plates arrived, I suggested we eat family style and share both dishes. It ended up being a brilliant idea; both generous portions full of fresh, al dente vegetables and each lending its own distinct taste made the meal seem more complex and filling. I had been singing the praises of the sticky black rice with mango from the moment we entered, so we saved the fried banana with ice cream for another day, and savored every last bite of the coconut sauce on the plate.
Thai House set the standard for quality Thai food in Chico that apparently even Tibetan monks couldn’t resist. Thai Basil not only lives up to its previous incarnation, but has achieved culinary nirvana in its own right with mouthwatering dishes and peaceful ambience.