Restaurant: Thai Basil
Last visited: December 18, 09
Location: Vancouver, BC (Westend/Downtown)
Address: 1215 Thurlow Street
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Hole in the wall, seats 10
- Family owned and operated
- Outdoor seating for maybe 3 people
- Made upon order
- Local ingredients
- Very cheap
- Eat in / Take-out
- $5.95 lunch specials
- Optional brown rice
- Attracts Westerners/white people
- Open kitchen
- Accepts MC/Debit/Visa
- Tuesday- Sunday 11am-9:30pm
- Closed Monday
**Recommendations: Pad Grapow (not on menu, need to make special request)
I walked past Thai Basil several months and finally decide to try it out. I was with my friend and we had spent the last couple days Christmas shopping so when we were deciding where to go for dinner the only craving we had was CHEAP. So we walked up Davie scoping out restaurants and had the intentions of going to Samurai Sushi as our default eatery for cheap eats…until I remembered Thai Basil that is. I had forgotten what the menu looked like, but all I knew was that it was really cheap; cheaper than Samurai Sushi, so it was a natural choice at the time.
I really questioned its authenticity because everyone having dinner there is predominantly white. However I think it could be the area; as well you wouldn’t notice it unless you lived in the neighborhood. This place is the definition of hole-in-the-wall; it’s a small operation that seats maybe 10. The kitchen is open which is good because at least I can see where my food is coming from. It’s clean and everything is served on nice rectangular white plates which really surprised me. I also loved the free toasted ground peanuts available at the counter. We seriously used the entire container between the 2 of us.
I had no idea what I was expecting. Part of me was thinking definitely watered down Thai food. When I asked for a recommendation she kept saying that the most popular was cashew nut chicken and Pad Thai, the dishes most popular for white people and mainly because they’re mild. So I had to really explain to her that I didn’t necessarily want most popular, but just the best thing according to them – basically what they would order. She said what she eats isn’t on the menu, but she could get it made for us. I was sold.
She didn’t know I was a reviewer/blogger but she did know I wanted the really authentic stuff. Therefore the dishes they prepared for us were especially made “Thai style”. Meaning everything is spicy and served how they would eat it at home or in Thailand.
Note: You can make this request at Thai/Indian restaurants.
On the table:
Nua Nam Tok – 3.5/6
- Grilled beef, onion, mint, roasted rice tossed in spicy dressing. Served on a bed of greens $5.95
- At first bite this was very spicy to me and I can handle spicy. I will usually go for medium, but I can handle hot. The first bite was spicy to the point of smoky bitter spicy. It had my nose runny quite early.
- The vinaigrette sauce was almost like a spicy Thai version of that orange Vietnamese sauce you dip your spring rolls in. It’s made of fish sauce, lime juice, and other Thai spices. The seasoning they use for it is this dark red spice made of dried Thai red chili peppers. It’s available at their help yourself condiments section at the counter.
- It was very flavourful and started off salty, then immediately to tangy, and then right away to very spicy. But it’s so weird because after a while of being spicy, it suddenly gets sweet. I couldn’t even taste the spiciness anymore. They also fried the actual dried Thai red chilies right into the oil before sautéing the beef and I think they did the same with the Thai basil leaves, so the flavourful was intense. To my surprise it wasn’t greasy either.
- The beef is really tender from being marinated. It looks dry, but it was juicy. It was pretty lean pieces and for the price they give you quite a bit and the dish is big overall.
- I couldn’t taste or see any roasted rice though.
- I also wish the fresh mint should have been more chopped up.
- I still prefer larb gai, another authentic Thai salad, over this one.
Must eat this with lots of ground peanuts – that are unlimited!
**Pad Grapow – 5/6
- Stir fried minced chicken, garlic, & holy basil served with a fried egg on a bed of rice $8.50.
- You can order it with minced chicken, pork, or beef.
- This is the secret dish that isn’t on the menu that was specially prepared upon request. Anyone can order it though, and I really suggest you do.
- This dish was very home style Thai, it was one of those dishes that you know is what they cook at home. It was really simple and when you see it served with a fried egg you just know it’s one of their go-to, feel good, home cooked meals. Fried eggs are common sides to lots of Asian cuisines, although it’s something we would do it at home or something you would see at Asian tea houses serving very casual food.
- The ground chicken is actually marinated in what tasted like sweet soy like sauce with garlic. It’s probably tamarind, fish sauce and (palm) sugar in the marinade with some garlic. It was very lean and delicious.
- The spiciness totally sneaks up on you with this dish…and I know why now! At first I thought it was because of the fresh red chilies and the seeds that got camouflaged into the minced meat. But now I know it’s because they use Thai holy basil in the dish and not Thai sweet basil! The flavour is totally different and this is when you know you’re getting the authentic stuff. This dish has to use a lot of holy basil because the flavour is what makes this dish. It has a peppery aromatic kick that’s softer than using straight up chilies. Both are used in the dish, but together the flavour is unmistakable.
- Again it’s best eaten with ground peanuts and the fish sauce and ground chili spice that comes with it. Adding peanuts isn’t the authentic way to eat it, but I loved the texture and flavour it added.
- The side of fish sauce doesn’t smell great, but the flavour it adds is amazing. Use it! It’s almost like a very pungent and potent salt – you just need to sprinkle some over the whole dish and mix it until you reached your desired flavour.
- My only complaint is that the egg was slightly overdone, so the yolk wasn’t as runny. It should be runny so that you can mixed everything nicely together.
- It’s a very big portion for one person and totally worth the price.
- It’s also not greasy and a perfect ratio of meat and rice.
I was thinking of going to Phnom Penh tomorrow for chicken wings and butter beef, but I may just have to try this place out! I love how you can order special secret authentic Thai dishes that aren't on the menu, that dish looks SO TASTY! I love that it comes with a fried egg, so it's like the #34 dish I order at Phnom Penh any way haha, we'll see though. Those chicken wings and the butter beef get me EVERY time.
Merry Christmas Mijune! I wish you and yours all the best this holiday season 🙂 And I look forward to more yummy reviews in the coming new year!
Btw, have you tried Noodlebox on West 4th in Kits? I'd love to have you review that place, the sweet chili plum noodlebox is my favourite. I have yet to try new dishes though because I keep ordering the same one lol.
I love Phnom Penh for the exact same things you order! Those are the best!! Except I get the shrimp instead of wings.
I am definitely going to do a review for noodle box in the new year! Thanks for the recommendation Nicole! Merry Christmas and I KNOW you probably bought half the mall on boxing day!! Can't wait to see the new outfits!
I have yet to try the shrimp, will def try it next time I go, which was supposed to be earlier tonight but when we got there it was a madhouse. Lineup out the door and stupid people in the way, I didn't want to bother with it since I couldn't even get IN the door to put my name down. So hopefully tmrw hahaha
YESSS!!!! I can't wait for your Noodlebox review!!!
Honestly, I only bought… 4 things on Boxing day hahahaha, I'll post about them soon. I'll be returning the pair of Sam Edelman shoes though cuz I can't justify spending $400 on them. SIGH.
Great review of Thai Basil! I’ve had the Pad Grapow (beef, I think) there, and it’s great. I, too, highly recommend this restaurant.
The only concern I have about your review are the comments you made about the race and national origin of the customers. Who really cares if the customers are white or Western or something else? After all, how does their presence impact the quality of the food? Does the presence of people of a particular race or national background raise the quality of the food? If a Thai person never comes to eat at this restaurant, should other people not go it? No. If the food is good, it’s good. If it’s not, it’s not.
Your review was very helpful and well-written otherwise.