Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Review 1: Thai Basil (Linwood, NJ)

A quick stop-by for lunch on a recent Saturday afternoon. No, we’re not huge food magazine editors who gorge themselves on roman banquets after golf…we sampled, alright? We’re just offering a morsel of what the place feels like in case you happen to be by southern New Jersey and you don’t want to eat pine cones and crappy boardwalk food [minus Mack & Manco’s, of course].

Thai Basil is an East Asian fusion joint with a Thai slant, as in the name (duh). Located in one of the shady, inner strips of Central Square in Linwood, the restaurant gives off a vibe of intimacy (oh, no way) that reflects the simplicity of the dishes—with a emphasis on fresh (and spicy) ingredients.

Though the lunch menu is employed M-F from 11:30-3, don’t be weary of the dinner prices given that compared to many other places we’ve been to, it doesn’t get that steep. For example, the medium-generous (as opposed to dumptruck) serving of Red Curry is one of the dishes that one of us had for the $8.95 lunch price; though if you want a nice, relaxing dinner out, $11 wouldn’t exactly be murder. The slightly pricier dinner menu runs between 5-9:30 M-Thursday and from 5-10:30 Friday and Saturday (5-9:30 on Sundays for old people/come on, it’s funny even if you do it).

Everyone in the party tried the curry puffs from the appetizer portion of the menu. Thai Basil describes them as “puff pastry filled with chicken, onion, potato, curry with vinegar cucumber sauce”. They were some of the most interesting somosa-like pastry pouches any of us have had—particularly because the curry filling provided a soft kick while the other ingredients were sweet (who knew it would work out?). The steamed dumplings didn’t really impress. You get 3 or 4, some are filled with chicken and others with shrimp (it’s insane)…probably the only thrill you’ll get since they’re your standard, steamed dumplings. What else? Ah yes, the main courses…

The “Pad Kra Praw” was quite spicy (which one could have ascertained from the menu’s description—chili peppers); not spicy to the extent which would have hindered your tongue’s ability to taste the ingredients, though. Pad Kra Praw consists of a choice of beef, chicken, tofu or shrimp (an added dollar for the latter), peppers, thai basil [look it up on Epi, if you’re curious]. In case you were wondering, the chicken was selected at this occasion. As in all of the chicken entrees that we ordered, the chicken was poached—smart move if you’re cooking with aromatic herbs and spices.

One of us ordered Red Curry and the other Green Curry. Spicy as would be expected, the chicken Red Curry entrée consisted of “thai red curry with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, eggplant, peppers and basil.” We’ve had similar dishes elsewhere (I’m thinking of Philadelphia’s The Bubble House), where the coconut and curry were seamlessly united. In Thai Basil’s case, the sauce was spicier and less sweet than that of the aforementioned restaurant. Final verdict is that it’s worth a try but if a softer sweet/spice equilibrium is what you’re after, then maybe not. Somewhat less spicy is the Green Curry dish, though the bite is still there.

Something we thought was quite special at Thai Basil...well, two items. First, the “Thai iced tea” was spectacular. Served in a tall glass and very cold, this tea appears to have milky orange appearance with a nose reminiscent of Chai. Here is the kicker though…the strong cinnamon and clove taste the usual infusion carries can offend the palate of some. If you are one of these people, you need to have the softer, less pronounced Thai variant of Masala Chai, offered here. Aside from the milder spice and addicting sweetness, it was incredibly refreshing.

As a closing note, the fried ice cream was delicious. Everything you would expect from amazing fried ice cream—crispy, caramelized sugar on the crust with the creamy vanilla in the center.

Final verdict: Goes down easy…(potential star-power…We could become repeat offenders)

For your convenience, here’s our five-tiered rating system:

A…Eat Me! (Open wide, and chew slowly to savor the taste sensations)

B…Goes down easy (potential star-power…We could become repeat offenders)

C…De-fanged (okay, so what? Not incredible; not terrible).

D…Chop Buster! (save your mandibles the molestation)

F…Damn, that Bites! (food that fights back; don’t mess with this mofo)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Welcome to That Bites! (Coming soon)