Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Thai goodness amidst fresh greenery - Basil Thai Kitchen @ Paragon

Whenever I go to Orchard Road, I sometimes find it difficult to find a nice place to eat at without burning a huge hole in my pocket or having to queue for ages just to get into the restaurant or put up with the buzz in a packed place. Coming across Basil Thai Kitchen was a coincidence as I needed to eat dinner on a weekday night near 9pm but some places were about to close then. As the food photos looked rather decent and the prices seemed reasonable, it was then decided that we would eat here.

Before I entered the restaurant, I wasn't aware that it was a different dining concept under Thai Express. As compared to the signature orange-themed Thai Express, Basil Thai had a lot of greenery in the form of flowers and green plants placed on the tables which gave it a fresh feel in line with the basil element in its name. Upon closer scrutiny of the menu, you would then notice some similar dishes between the two restaurants although servings and how they are plated do differ to a certain extent.

The first dish was tom yum soup which I thought was pretty good and whetted my appetite. To be honest, I usually do not like tom yum soup because some versions can be too sour while some are too spicy to my liking. However, this had the right balance and the amount of ingredients was more than I expected for a price of $8.90. I don't know if there are any differences in how they make this tom yam soup as compared to Thai Express because I usually found the latter to be too sour for me.

Next up was another Thai cuisine signature dish - pineapple fried rice ($11.90). The portion did seem a bit small as compared to the price but the saving grace was its taste and generous portions of seafood hidden within that bowl of rice. There was a nice aroma when this was served and the rice grains were fluffier than what I tasted before at Thai Express. The freshness of the seafood embedded within the rice also made a good impression on me. However, it might be good to alter the size of the plate as the extra space as seen in the photo reinforces the impression that the serving is small. Personally, for a big eater like me, this portion size is hardly satisfying but for small eaters, they might be content with this amount.

The Massamam chicken curry served with rice ($13.90) was definitely my favourite because the chicken's texture was so tender and the curry went very well with the plain white rice. The amount of chicken was also quite substantial for a big eater like me. Some curries tend to be quite heavy on the palate and leave a very strong aftertaste but this version was actually lighter and not that spicy as it looked even though I was slightly worried when I ordered this. Actually, the default option was to eat the curry with the crispy roti but I was too famished that night and wanted to have rice instead. Thankfully, the staff members were very accommodating and accepted my request for an alternative for this dish. Perhaps I will go back to try the roti version and see which pairing is better.

On a separate occasion, this time on a Saturday evening, I went back and ordered their green curry chicken with rice ($10.90). Visually, it was rather disappointing to see such a big plate with so much empty space. The lone piece of lettuce didn't do much in enhancing the visual appeal of this dish and the rice wasn't even in a complete circle shape. As for the curry which I always order when I eat at Thai Express, the portion seemed somewhat smaller because I didn't get that many pieces of the chicken and the curry was on the bland side but somehow looked oilier. Considering the price, I might have been better off getting the pineapple fried rice which would at least satisfy my taste buds even though the portion sizes still left much to be desired.

Last but not least, here's the Virgin Basil Mojito ($3.90) which I considered to be a steal because you hardly get drinks below $5 in most restaurants these days. This is the perfect antidote for the sunny and hot weather here with its refreshing sensation and taste being a match for the spicy Thai cuisine. In terms of the portion size, there is also nothing to complain about.

Considering that there are still many dishes which I have yet to try here, I should be coming back for more visits especially if I need to get a decent meal at relatively affordable prices. Especially considering that the restaurant is located in the middle of Orchard Road and in a shopping mall known for its high-end branded offerings, this will be a good place to keep in mind during your Orchard Road visits. However, even though it is another dining concept under the same company, there needs to be a bit more done to differentiate the offerings from both brands. In terms of decor, there is nothing that links both brands together because the main theme colours are different but some of the dishes are replicated across both menus so there may be a need to adjust accordingly to the positioning of the brands. And one last thing, the portions either need to be adjusted to make them more filling or the plates need to be shrunk or else that feeling of dissatisfaction will probably mar the dining experience to a certain extent.

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