Restaurant: Basil Ultimate Pho and Fine Vietnamese Cuisine
Last visited: September 14, 2013
Location: Calgary, AB (Stephen Avenue)
Address: 10, 2770 32nd Ave. NE
Transit: WB 32 Av NE@ 27 St NE
Phone: (403) 457-0808
Price range: $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Vietnamese family owned/operated
- Local favourite
- Known for Sate Pho
- Bubble tea/fresh fruit bbt available
- Family friendly
- Budget friendly
- Lunch and dinner 7 days/week
**Recommendations: Beef Sate Pho with extra rare steak on the side and beef tallow oil on the side, Deep Fried Quail
I planned on starting this post much differently, until I googled “Basil Ultimate Pho and Fine Vietnamese Cuisine” looking for a website, but found an article called “Man killed in Calgary restaurant shooting likely an unintended victim” – yikes, never a good sign. The shooting happened at the restaurant last year and the targeted man was connected to a local street gang. It reinforces the stereotypes I was trying to avoid. Nonetheless, stories like this happen in Vancouver too (my hometown) and in other cities, and it is sad to say it could have happened anywhere.
Originally I was going to start the article saying how nice it was to see a Vietnamese restaurant that didn’t have the 10 Characteristics of a Vietnamese Restaurant, and I guess it can still apply. There are many reasons making Basil less stereotypical, but still authentic.
I didn’t know about the shooting and my friends who live there recommended it. In terms of business, it may have suffered from the tragedy during the time, but I assume it recovered rather quickly because their weekend lunch was busy (although not full) with a loyal following. Mind you it is spacious and seats about fifty.
It was off the beaten path just outside of downtown in a mall complex and it is not a restaurant people visit out of convenience. People come here for the pho and specifically their signature sate pho. They come here to satisfy a craving which apparently other Vietnamese restaurants can’t compete with. I haven’t tried enough Vietnamese restaurants in Calgary to agree, but if this is one of the “pho benchmarks” in the city, then sign me up.
Calgary and Edmonton have a significant Vietnamese population and their Vietnamese restaurants have a good reputation. Many who are familiar with Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver will always stand by the Vietnamese food in Alberta, although Vancouver takes the win for Chinese and Japanese cuisine. There are a lot of Vietnamese restaurants in Vancouver, and while some are good many are just average. Calgary is proud of their Vietnamese restaurants and I’ve tried a couple so called “top ones in the city”; and based on those, their standard for Vietnamese food is higher than Vancouver.
The owners used to have a well liked Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Dau Bo, which I tried 5 years ago, so Basil came with a fan base. It is modern without being Western, and the food and room is presentable. It isn’t a fancy place, but it is not the dodgy hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant accepting cash only. The room is seemingly clean and the food is authentic and presented neatly with good quality and fresh ingredients. They put care and effort into their food, although still not at its full potential with every dish. I found it pricey for a Vietnamese restaurant and it is on the higher end of Vietnamese restaurants in Calgary, but it was worth it nonetheless.
Follow Me Foodie to Calgary explored many Canadian restaurants, but to miss out on Calgary’s strong Vietnamese food scene would be a shame. I have barely scratched the surface of what they have to offer in this category, but the Vietnamese population and influence is significant to their food culture.
On the table:
**Deep Fried Quails – 4/6 (Very good)
- Marinated deep fried quails (4) $8.95
- I would have overlooked these, but they were great.
- I’m a fan of quail and these were what they were, but they were done well.
- The skin was crispy with a decent char, they came out hot, and the meat was tender and juicy,
- They were fully cooked, fried without batter, not fatty (naturally they are lean), and not dry.
- I think they were marinated or brined in a garlicky sweet soy sauce before being fried and they were well seasoned.
Rocket Shrimp Rolls – 2/6 (Okay)
- Deep fried giant tiger prawns and taro spring rolls, served with “Nuoc Mam” dipping sauce. (4) $6.95
- These are another favourite, but I found them just okay. I wouldn’t have to order them again.
- In Vietnam Vietnamese spring rolls are usually made with rice wrappers instead of spring roll wrappers.
- The spring rolls are then wrapped in lettuce leaves and dipped into the sauce.
- Here, there were no lettuce leaves and not many places in North American serve them this way.
- The spring roll wrapper was quite thick, but it was crunchy and golden brown.
- I could taste the prawn and then there was some roughly mashed fresh taro root inside.
- It tasted exactly like prawns and mashed taro root and I think I was expecting something more.
- Spring rolls with taro and shrimp exist in Vietnam, but usually there is also pork, mushrooms and other veggies.
This can say something about a Vietnamese restaurant. The bean spouts, Vietnamese basil, lime, and red chilies were fresh, clean and well presented.
**Rare Steak & Beef Balls – Pho Tai Bo Vien – 4/6 (Very good)
- Noodle soup with eye round steak, and beef balls served with side bean sprouts, basil, lime & chili peppers. $9
- I ordered this because it’s the standard test of an excellent pho.
- It comes in one size and the bowl is massive.
- The broth wasn’t as good as Pho Tam for me, but it was still very good and served hot.
- It had nice depth of flavour, but the beefiness wasn’t as strong as places like Pho Tam.
The noodles were firm and some say they don’t give enough, but the bowls are big and I thought it was fair.
- This is a “not-so-secret-but-secret” off the menu condiment.
- It’s free if you ask for it, but you’re also asking for clogged arteries.
- I’ve never been to a Vietnamese restaurant serving this. It was deadly… and I loved it.
- Beef tallow oil
is not good for your health, but “you only live once”… or does that not work here?(See **)
- Just drizzle 2 teaspoons of this “liquid gold” on your bowl of noodles
and you might just die and go to heaven… depending on your health, that could be literally.
- Adding the drizzle of beef tallow just made the pho so much richer, rounder, and smoother in flavour and texture. The difference was noticeable and it tasted better.
I do not recommend doing this all the time, butonce in a while your pho needs a bit of beef tallow.
- **Major misconception about beef tallow and pig lard… it is not bad for you if it’s high quality and sourced from ethically raised animals.
- For further information on the misconception – see here.
**Beef Sate (Spicy) – Pho Sate Bo – 5/6 (Excellent)
- Mekong style beef sate in creamy, spicy broth noodle soup served with side bean sprouts, basil, lime & chili peppers. Contains peanut sauce. $10
- Ask for the beef tallow oil on the side for this too! Just a couple teaspoons will do the trick.
- This was the signature dish and ultimate star of the show. I liked this better than the regular pho.
- Again, there is only one size and the bowl is huge.
- It was rich and creamy with peanut sauce, coconut milk, lemongrass, and lime juice for some tangy acidity.
- It was fragrant and dynamic in flavour and it was salty, sweet, tangy, and spicy.
- It was nice and spicy without being hot and I could still taste the beefy undertones of the broth.
- The closest thing in Vancouver I’ve had was the Pho Bo Satay at Pho Tan, but based on memory I prefer this one. I’d be curious to do a side by side.
- If you like satay sauce, Thai food and fragrant South East Asian food then this is right up your alley.
- Sometimes they sprinkle toasted crushed peanuts on top of Pho Sate Bo, but they didn’t do that here and I wish they did.
Extra – Rare Eye Round Steak ($3) – Just look at it! The photo is convincing enough. Order extra steak. The quality was great and it was so tender, well marbled and not chewy even after cooking it in the soup for a bit.