Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 July 2011 11:34
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
I wish everybody who operates an Asian restaurant in New Orleans would take a night off for dinner at the Basil Leaf. Aside from being one of the two or three best Thai restaurants locally, it breaks an unspoken rule that keeps most Asian places from being what they could be. The Basil Leaf charges higher than bare-minimum prices, and delivers better-than-ordinary food, wine, service, and environment. This will upset those who mistakenly believe that Asian food must be cheap to be authentic, but the logic is hard to fault. And the food speaks for itself.
Chef Bank buys ingredients of fine quality, cooks them with imagination, and presents it beautifully on handsome plates. It’s the kind of food and creature comforts you’d get at a gourmet bistro, but with Thai food. He adds his own ideas to the standards, and the results are fresh and powerful without really watering down the Thai spirit. Seafood specials here are particularly good.
Chef Bank (Siam Titiparwat) opened the Basil Leaf first in Metairie, where it was a big hit in a secondary location. In 1999 he moved to a much more auspicious location in Carrollton, near the streetcar barn. A handsome private dining room was added a few years later. A second location opened in Mandeville, but didn't last a year; too many Thai restaurants there. In 2010, the Basil Leaf added a full sushi bar to its Thai offerings.
The front room's many, large windows admit lots of light and views of trees, although they're curtained off at the lower level to lend privacy to the diners next to them. The room in the rear has an almost library-like quality. Service is carried out by the usual assortment of young Uptowners.
Spring roll (fried, noodles, shrimp)
»Summer roll (unfried, shrimp, carrots, cucumber, cilantro)
Rare seared peppercorn-crusted tuna
Seared dumpling (shrimp and pork)
Sauteed tofu, garlic sauce
Fresh veggie roll
»Crabmeat eggplant napoleon
»Spicy conch and octopus
»Ika sansai (Japanese marinated squid, seaweed salad)
»Hot and sour chicken soup
»Chicken coconut soup (tom kar)
»Spicy shrimp lemongrass soup (tom yum)
»Larb salad (chicken, lime, rice, mint)
Spicy calamari salad
Mixed greens salad
Lump crabmeat salad
Grilled beef tender
Shrimp and vegetable tempura
Drunken noodles (chicken, shrimp, broccoli, mushrooms)
Shrimp fried rice
Siam beef tenderloin, wine chili sauce
Coconut meat, scallops, shrimp, eggplant,red curry sauce
»Spicy basil chicken
»Pad woon sen (scallops, shrimp, glass noodles
Kaffir lime chicken, green curry, bamboo shoots
»Seafood pad thai
»Grilled sea scallops, shrimp, cashews
Spicy thai basil fried rice
»Thai curry--red, green, Panang, or musaman styles, with chicken, shrimp, or beef
All entrees can be made vegetarian
»Sushi and sashimi
Sushi rolls (many kinds)
FOR BEST RESULTS
Know that if you usually spend $15 in a Thai restaurant, you will spend $20 here. Try something offbeat; you can get the standards anywhere. There's usually a good wine program going on, allowing a mini-tasting at an attractive price.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The food is a little inconsistent; the service more so.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency -1
- Value +1
- Wine and Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Good view
- Small private room
- Open Sunday dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Quick, good meal
- Easy, nearby parking
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