Saturday, May 8, 2010

Short North: Basil

Two summers ago, I lived in apartment at the corner of High and 4th Avenue -- the current site of the Jackson development.  When I was there, the happenin' place to go was the Surly Girl (which is still awesome), Skully's (Ladies 80s-- holler), and the creepy-now out of business-potential molester's-goody boy drive through.  I always hoped that this side of High street would develop, and with the Jackson finally being developed it's really coming into fruition.  Now, across the street from my old place and next door to Skully's, is Basil.

Columbus does have its fair share of Asian restaurants.  And, on High Street, there are plenty (Lemongrass, Haiku, Nida's and now Basil).  However, Basil has really given the space a face lift.  Deep, dark wood floors, a beautiful bar, and intimate seating.  I had read in the Dispatch that the owners of Basil had very successful restaurants in Chicago, so I have always been eager to go.  I think Basil has been open for quite some time, but I just haven't made it up there, even though it's several blocks away from my apartment.

I went to Basil for lunch to partake in the lunch special (I am such a sucker for lunch combos).  A choice of soup, an appetizer, and a lunch special for $7.50.  Since this is was my first time, I decided to make it more special to decide whether or not I'd return.  I took a friend of mine that also enjoys Thai food, and we ventured up to try it out.

I started with the Tom Ka soup.  A coconut broth, with mushrooms, lemongrass, onions, and cilantro.  I was afraid that the flavors wouldn't be pungent but this broth was delicious.  I could really taste all of the flavors in the soup, and the lemongrass was delicious.  I really enjoyed the soup, and it would be the perfect cup of comfort on a cold day -- I'd say that it compares to/is on the  same level as the Lemongrass soup at Lemongrass, which is my standard for soups.

The next lunch choice is an appetizer.  I looked around what other people were getting, and there was a variety of food out on the floor.  I asked the waitress what was the best choice to make, and she recommended the crispy roll.   A crispy rice wrapper with chicken, vermicelli noodles, sprouts, in this tangy vinaigrette.  The combination of flavors really worked.  And, the ground nuts on top added a nice contrast.  

(on a side note, it's interesting how many items are used in Thai and Indian cooking...the vermicilli noodles, cilantro, ginger, garlic...)

For my entree, I ordered the pad kee mow, aka, the drunken noodle.  My first experience with drunken noodle was in Bethesda, Maryland.  I worked on Capitol Hill for a summer, and my sister was in DC at the same time as well.  She loved this restaurant in Bethesda for the drunken noodle dish and introduced me to it.  It was pretty fantastic, and that really set the bar in my mind for drunken noodle.  Drunken noodle is composed of wide noodles in a spicy-sweet-basil sauce, and a variety of vegetables, and meat or tofu.   I had mine with shrimp, and ordered it spicy.  It was still pretty sweet, but the spice really hit at the end.  As far as drunken noodles in Columbus go, it was one of the better I've had.  And the portion size was excellent, perfect for lunch, although I was really stuffed after two bites of my crispy roll.

My friend had the red curry with chicken.  It is his standard at Thai restaurants, so he always orders it when he goes to a Thai restaurant for the first time.  Basil also offers the option of brown rice, which is great and refreshing for people trying to eat less white rice.  My buddy thought that the curry got better with time; at first bite, it was very chalky, but after several minutes of sitting it improved.  I thought that corn starch may have been added to make the curry thicker, which is unfortunate -- why add a thickening agent?

CONCLUSION: Basil is excellent and a nice addition to the neighborhood.  Although the service was a little slow, the presentation was beautiful and the flavors were great.  Also, Basil is this weekend's Groupon, $10 for $20 worth of food, and it goes until Sunday.  Go buy it!

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