The Review: Basil Thai Cuisine
Lemongrass and lime, galangal and coconut: the fragrant essences of Thai food enhance the approach at Basil, the newest in the trilogy of restaurants created by brothers Henry and Chai Eang. This much-anticipated addition to the Shoppes at Seaside Farms in Mount Pleasant is aesthetically pleasing and artfully designed, incorporating the comforts and charms of the native culture within expansive glassed views of the nearby lake and verdant green space.
Huge bamboo planters anchor the handsome restaurant’s exterior. Inside, guests are welcomed by the massive Blessings of the Buddha statue and lovely arrangements of orchids that soothe the waits that can occur due to the fact that Basil accepts reservations for large groups only. The sheer size of the restaurant minimizes this possibility, however. A quick tour of the space reveals the expert planning that has created fluid movement through private rooms and a first-floor terrace, with the main dining room bounded by the open kitchen in the heart of the house. A tasteful bamboo-lined screen separating the entrance foyer from the dining room adds beauty and privacy while preserving the concept of open flow. Upstairs, the busy central bar is connected to an appealing cushioned terrace offering alfresco seating.
On a recent visit, we were seated in a comfortable booth in the main dining room. The room began to fill rapidly as the host shared recommendations for her favorite fare. The menu includes classic Thai appetizers, soups, and salads, as well as entrées, curries, and noodle dishes that allow guests to customize orders according to taste and heat preference. Our server, Raoul, was very helpful, patiently sharing cultural and culinary guidelines as he balanced our conversation with visits to other tables.
We began with hot tea and fresh basil rolls of shrimp, bean sprouts, lettuce, and rice noodles wrapped in rice paper. Served with chef Suntorn Cherchoongarm’s sweet and sour sauce, they were delicious, though not really as spicy as noted on the menu. Very good som tum (green papaya salad) consisted of crisp shredded papaya tossed with poached halved shrimp, green beans, red pepper, crushed peanuts, and enough Thai chilies to provide a fiery glow cooled by a dressing of fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime juice. Tom kha gai (chicken coconut soup) was rich and flavorful with jasmine rice, mushrooms, scallions, and cilantro basking in the luxurious tang of lemongrass, coconut milk, and galangal.
Our entrée selections were the chef’s signature crispy red curry duck as well as ginger shrimp chosen from among house specialties. The boneless half duck was tender and juicy, though slightly more fatty than we’d hoped. The fragrant red curry sauce included shredded carrots and Napa cabbage along with baby peas, snow peas, pineapple, red and green peppers, and cauliflower and made for an exquisite melding of flavors. The ginger shrimp dish, which also could have been ordered with beef, chicken, pork, or tofu, was much lighter, yet equally satisfying with rice and spicy julienned ginger, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and scallions.
We were curious about the fried green tea ice cream and decided to give it a try for dessert. The combination was interesting, but we liked the ice cream and raspberry better than the coconut-flavored outer crust. We yearned for a Thai fruit salad with lemon and ginger instead.
While heat levels were not always consistent with those noted in the menu, Basil in Mount Pleasant offers a welcome opportunity to create your own Thai experience in comfort and style. Plenty of parking, private dining rooms, and takeout options (except during peak periods) are other good reasons to visit.
Basil Thai Cuisine
1465 Long Grove Dr.,
Mount Pleasant, (843) 606-9641,
Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5-11 p.m.
Average entrée: $16