THE BITE: When asked what type of restaurants are needed in Sheepshead Bay, I’ve always answered that we need another Thai place. Well, after having that discussion for more than a decade, my desire has finally been fulfilled. We have a new Thai restaurant in the Bay.
Located at 3682B Nostrand Avenue, Thai Basil, which opened in early December, is dishing out “Thai fusion” dishes to all comers. I’m not sure what they mean by Thai “fusion,” as most of the dishes presented on the limited menu appear to be found in just about any Thai restaurant, but I’m pleased to see a new food choice in the ‘hood.
For the Bite, I sampled an array of dishes from the lunch menu that should represent the restaurant well. Pad Thai, considered by some to be the national dish of Thailand, Massamam Curry, cited by CNN as the “world’s most delicious food,” and Ginger Joy, a dish I never heard of before.
Pad Thai is a noodle dish found on the streets of Bangkok and may be thought of as an interpretation of the traditional Chinese Lo Mein. This dish of rice noodles and spices can be made in thousands of ways, but always includes a topping of peanuts, raw bean sprouts and a squeeze of lime just before serving to finish it off. At Thai Basil, the dish is light and well balanced between the aromatic vegetables and noodles. Thai Bail serves their Pad Thai with an option of meats and the white meat chicken added to the dish was cooked well and flavorful. The menu categorizes this dish as “spicy,” but I couldn’t find the heat.
Ginger Joy was an interesting dish. Sauteed vegetables, white meat chicken and tomatoes compete with strands of ginger (the joy?) to create a somewhat smokey flavor. This dish of bean sprouts, julienned ginger, tree ears, soy bean, onion, peppers and oyster sauce would make a great dish to introduce someone to the wonders of Thai cuisine. If you’ve eaten a Chinese stir fry, you’ve had this dish.
Last up was the Massamam Curry. Thai curries are one of my favorite things to eat. With the mix of heat and sweet, curry dishes really test the chef’s ability to balance flavors. Massamam is one of the more complex dishes with its mixture of meat, potatoes, lemongrass and coconut milk.
This dish was selected as a bit of a test for the kitchen. I’ve had hundreds of versions of this dish and a well made Massamam is truly a sublime indulgence. Here at Thai Basil, not so much. Their version is light, but heavy on the coconut milk and missing much of the complexity of a true curry. Frankly, it was a bit bland. It is also listed as “spicy” on the menu, but if the heat was there, it checked out before I got back to the office.
All of this dishes above were taken from the “lunch special” menu which is available Monday through Sunday from noon until 3:30 p.m. All lunch specials include a spring roll and garden salad. Jasmine rice is served with all dishes except noodle (Pad Thai) and rice dishes. All of our dishes included chicken and were $7.00. Lunch specials run from $7.00 to $8.00 depending on the meat selected. Vegetarian dishes are available for $6.00.
While I enjoyed my meal from Thai Basil, I have to say that the kitchen needs some tempering and seasoning. As do the dishes. All of the three dishes we sampled were overly sweet, not to the point of cloying, but not far from it. While this may suit many American palettes, it is far from the true flavors of Thai cuisine.
When Thai restaurants first arrived on the scene back in the late 80s, their claim to fame was the spiciness of the dishes. I remember the battles between Thai restaurants for who could serve the hottest dish and the pride Thai chefs claimed in taking down the latest “heat freak” with the heat of their food. While I don’t clamor for a return to the days of heat-for-heat’s sake dishes, Thai Basil could certainly use a stronger hand with the peppers and spice.
Thai Basil, 3682B Nostrand Avenue (Between Avenues X and W), (718) 891-8889.
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.