Its only fitting I start this blog with my favorite neighborhood jaunt. It opened about two years ago and has been a consistent go to of mine for several reasons. One, its close by. Two, everything on the menu is reasonably priced. And finally, it delivers a quality meal every time. Good reasons right?
Basilic was my first introduction into Vietnamese fare. For those of you who are skeptical of trying something new out of fear this is a hole in the wall in a questionable strip mall that potentially serves dog or possum, or whatever you fear they serve in Vietnam… Basilic will erase those fears. Its a charming modern-ish bistro located in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, just steps away from the beach, Aruba’s and Village Pump. When I first started going it was moderately busy, never empty, and you never had to wait for a table. Now that word has gotten out about this little place, it seems that you’ll experience a wait upon going, especially on the weekend. Not sure how I feel about that but nonetheless…on to the food.
The menu is relatively simple. Separated into appetizers, salads, soups (Pho), noodles, sandwiches and entrees. They serve beer and wine only and have a decent selection of both. the wait staff is attentive (and so friendly) and you’ll rarely have an empty glass – unless you want one. As I mentioned earlier, almost every dish hovers around the $10 mark. You can eat well here and leave with some coin in your wallet. Yay!
Your server will bring you over a complimentary basket of shrimp chips. White crispy wafers to nibble on with some of the condiments on the table. They are light and crispy and have no real flavor on their own. Basilic makes its own chili sauces – one is a red chili sauce, full of seeds that is a bit vinegary and spicy for my palate. The other one is a less spicy lemongrass alternative (which still has plenty of kick) and works on everything they serve. (Sometimes I ask to take a sample of this home to smear on eggs and chicken. Dont judge.) Anyway, put some on your shrimp chips and try not to fill yourself up on these little buggers…its easy to.
Ive had several of the appetizers. The spring rolls are light and fresh and served with a peanut sauce that sometimes feel more like peanut butter. The crispy calamari and shrimp is light and fried to perfection with chilis and peppers that add a nice little kick. But the stand out appetizer is the egg crepe. Its large enough to share among 3 or 4 people (or 2 if one of you is me). Its a half moon shaped omelet/crepe stuffed with shrimp, pieces or pork loin and bean sprouts for added crunch. On the side, fresh lettuce, cilantro and mint leaves are served along with a serving of fish sauce for each diner. You eat the crepe by adding a portion of it to small ramekin, along with a few sprigs of mint and cilantro and some fish sauce. A dollop or two of Lemongrass chili goes nicely as does soy sauce. The combination of the flavors is something you’ve probably not experienced before and they meld together very nicely. My dining companions last night thoroughly enjoyed it and Ive yet to meet anyone who doesn’t. You can have a spring roll or calamari a million other places: trust me, get the crepe.
For dinner my female (and very pregnant) dining companion ordered the noodle bowl. She – the chicken, me the combination noodle bowl which had shrimp, chicken and pork with a complimentary egg roll on top. The noodle bowls are light and fresh – with a generous helping of vermicelli noodles, shredded lettuce, carrots, bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, scallions and fish sauce on the side to pour on. Again, add some of the table side chili sauces to kick it up a notch or two. You know how you usually feel full and gross after eating a bowl of noodles? Yeah well that doesn’t happen with this dish.
My other friend, the baby daddy, ordered another personal favorite of mine – Lemongrass wok tossed noodles. Flat egg noodles tossed in a fragrant, spicy and at times slightly overpowering lemongrass broth/sauce served along with tofu and beef, bean sprouts, nuts and fresh herbs. You might want to taste it first before adding in the chili sauce – sometimes the sauce is milder and sometimes its hotter. On this trip – it was hot enough. The flavors of the entire meal with the lemongrass, cilantro, and other spices all work together very well. It is a very harmonious meal. Its slightly heavier than the noodle bowls but a unique flavor if you’re not well acquainted with lemongrass. And really, you should be.
Lastly, and although we did not order it on this trip, I strongly suggest you try the soup the Vietnamese are most known for – Pho. (Pronounced Foh. ) Pho is a huge bowl of delicious broth, with noodles and your choice of meat – brisket, pork, chicken, or any combination thereof. Served along side that bowl of goodies is fresh basil and cilantro, jalepenos, fresh lime, bean sprouts (notice a theme here?), and a small serving of Srircha (Japanese hot sauce which goes with a ton of things) and Hoisin sauce to stir in. Its as fragrant and as comforting as a bowl of soup can get. It truly is perfection in a bowl and you’ll find yourself wanting it again because it is such a unique dish. It was too warm in Florida to eat it last night – but when its cold out or you have a cold or allergy and otherwise feel miserable, get a bowl of Pho – it’ll fix what ails you. I swear. Look at how gorgeous this is!
4 out of 5 Forks.
Basilic, 218 E. Commercial Blvd., Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, FL 33308