Thai one on
From the moment I walked into The Basil I knew we were likely in for a treat. The decor was stylish, and the atmosphere was absolutely enchanting. The air was heavy with aromas of Thai basil, fish sauce and spices. I couldn’t wait to order.
The entire staff was apparently just as eager. We had food on the table just moments after making our selections. Chicken satay ($8.95)—skewers of tender chicken marinated in coconut milk, then charbroiled—got things started. These were accompanied by a simple salad of cucumber, onion, basil, seasoned rice vinegar and a flavorful peanut sauce.
While I enjoyed a better-than-bottom-shelf hot sake ($7), we each ordered entrees to share amongst the six of us. My first choice of beef salad ($13.95) was so pretty I almost hated to disturb it. Grilled beef was tossed in a deliciously light dressing with cilantro, tomato, onion, mixed greens and fresh basil—topped with julienned scallion and served in bowl made of iceberg lettuce. This was followed by “topless seafood” ($16.95), a mix of scallop, shrimp, bell pepper, egg, basil, peanut and kaffir lime leaves cooked in a Thai curry sauce and served in a multi-pocket earthenware dish reminiscent of an escargot server. Seven little domes with nubby handles covered each morsel. Perhaps a double entendre was in play as to the toplessness of the dish. We enjoyed a giggle along with the skillfully cooked seafood.
If you think you don’t like duck, you should give Thai ginger duckling ($20.95) a try. Pieces of roasted boneless duck—including fantastically crispy skin—were tossed with fresh ginger, bell pepper, onion, celery and black mushroom in a ginger sauce. The veggies were lightly cooked—with just a bit of crunch remaining—leaving an impression of crispy duck salad more than stir-fry. I think I was the only true duck lover at the table, but everyone enjoyed it.
Panang curry ($15.95), a Thai classic, is a simple dish of kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, snow peas, bell pepper and a choice of proteins. Our plate of fragrant chicken curry, topped with a radish rosette, was pleasantly spiced without being too piquant. More on the fiery side, spicy basil beef ($13.95) was a stir-fry of tender meat with Thai chili, bell pepper, garlic, onion, fresh basil and, again, the edible radish decoration. Rounding out the saucy dishes, a special order of Massaman curry ($15.95) included pumpkin, onion, bell pepper, sweet basil, pecan halves, coconut milk and Thai red chili paste. Apparently based on an old Persian dish, it’s prepared in a variety of ways throughout southeast Asia. Pumpkin curries aren’t generally my first choice, but I’m glad I got a few bites before the squash lovers scarfed it down.
Despite the rest, I still had to include a plate of pad thai($13.95)—probably the most popular noodle dish of Thai cuisine. You’re likely familiar with this pan-fried concoction of small rice noodles, chicken, shrimp, egg, onion, bean sprout, tamarind, fish sauce, chopped peanuts and spices. It’s served with Thai chili on the side. I’ve had plenty of Thai noodle dishes, and this one was outstanding.