Sunday, July 14, 2013

West End's Thai Basil Restaurant Impress

As local Westender, I must confess that I've walked by the Thai Basil restaurant hundreds of times and truthfully didn't really notice it was there. This small and quaint eatery is tucked along Thurlow Street, just off the bustling Davie Street. 

If it wasn't for its bright green awning, Thai Basil could be easily overlooked by people passing by but it has garnred a serious local following for their deliciously authentic Thai cuisine! 

My sister, who works at St. Paul's Hospital, has recommended Thai Basil to me several times claiming they offer some of the best Thai dishes in town, at a reasonable price. Now that I reflect back, I've noticed hospital employees dressed in scrubs regularly grabbing a bite at Thai Basil during their breaks. I should have guessed they would know where to get yummy food, quickly.

Opened in 2008, owner Goh and his wife had the ambition to make good, authentic Thai cuisine by using fresh, local ingredients. They've achieved their vision and continue to satisfy regular patrons palates daily. Conveniently located in my neighbourhood, it's too bad that I haven't tried their food sooner! 

It was during my walk home after work did I eventually take my sister's advise and stopped in for dinner.  The interior is modestly decorated with cozy diningroom that seats 10-12 people. So I felt lucky when I scored one of their three sidewalk patio tables! The outdoor seating was a great place to take in the colourful buzz from Davie Street while the cool summer breeze was pleasantly refreshing.

Orders are generally taken at the counter because a majority of their patrons get take-out. After asking for some recommendations from the friendly server working the till, I decided on the chicken satay (grilled skewers), massaman curry (coconut curry) and pad gra pow (minced meat stir-fry).
The chicken satay had a gorgeous golden hue from its turmeric-based marinade with lightly charred grill marks. The juicy and tender chicken breast was savoury, a nice contrast to its accompanying sweet and nutty peanut sauce.
Next came a heaping bowl of chicken massaman curry. Filled with thick slices of potatoes, tomatoes, sweet onion, cashew nuts and strips of chicken breast, my favourite part was the coconut curry sauce. 

Slightly sweet from the palm sugar with a light creaminess from the coconut milk, the curry's bold flavours was rich with complex spicy notes that made my taste buds sing! It's safe to say that this massaman curry has been added to one of my top favourite dishes of all-time.
Finally came the pad gra pow, one of Thai Basil's specialty dishes, served with your choice of minced chicken, pork or beef then served with a fried egg on top of a bed of rice. I learned from the server that pad means stir-fried and gra pow means basil in Thai. 

Homestyle and rustic in its presentation, this is a complete meal in itself. It's best is to mix the egg, minced meat and rice to enjoy the flavours together.  I liked to zing from the sliced red chilies and sweetness from the basil in the minced pork stir fry. The egg acted as a creamy binder and the side fish sauce added more aromatic heat to this tasty medley.

With friendly staff, delicious dishes, and affordable prices, it's a good thing they're opening a second location near Kitsilano Beach this month! Despite their small space, Thai Basil will impress you with their big and authentic Thai flavours.

My Recommendations:
Chicken Satay $5.95, Massaman Curry $7.95 and Pad Gra Prow $9.95.

Thai Basil West End
1215 Thurlow Street
Vancouver, BC

Thai Basil Kistilano
2184 Cornwall Avenue
Vancouver, BC 

Thai Basil on Urbanspoon