Basil Café is Long Beach’s newest addition to its burgeoning culinary scene. Beatline Road seems to be the place to be, and almost every time I drive that way, I find a new place to explore.
If you are an advocate of Southeast Asian food, Basil’s is going to turn your head. The menu is Vietnamese and Thai, a dangerous combination. Bangkok may be just a short flight from Saigon, but the food cultures are a world apart. What does pho (the national dish of Vietnam) have in common with som tum, the green papaya salad Thais seem to live for? Not much.
But Basil solves the dilemma by having a chef who specializes in Thai food, another who does Vietnamese, and yet a third who does stir-fry. That’s pretty cool.
As you might guess, my recommendation on the Vietnamese menu (yes, there are two separate menus) is pho ($9.50 to $12). I can’t help but quote the recently, and tragically departed, Anthony Bourdain when he described pho as a “steaming bowl of goodness.” There are few things in this world as delicious and nourishing as a well-made bowl of pho.
On the Thai side, try the panang curry ($9.95 to $11.95). If you have never had an authentic curry, you are in for a surprise. If you think that the turmeric-colored powder you can buy at the grocery store is authentic curry, you are sadly mistaken. It is, in fact, a British creation. The basics of panang curry are bell peppers, kaffer leaves and coconut milk. It has that wonderful Thai balance of hot, sweet, sour and salty and there is simply nothing like it in any other culinary world.
If you crave Vietnamese food, try one of the grilled pork dishes, or even grilled pork and shrimp ($11.95). The famous Vietnamese style sandwich, banh mi, which the Vietnamese borrowed from the French, not the New Orleans po-boy tradition, is always a winner. Again, I’d recommend the grilled pork version.
The Thai menu is petit, with hardly a dozen choices, but there isn’t a bad choice amongst them. Pad Thai ($9.95-$11.95), is always a good choice, if you are in the mood for noodles, and of course tom yum (hot and sour soup), and both the red and yellow curry’s are notable.
Basil Café is a sharp little place, clean, friendly and easy to get to from Interstate 10 and U.S. 49. The food is prepared with serious care, and a great deal of authenticity. If a good curry or a serious pho is what you crave, Basil café is the place to be.
Where: 5130 Beatline Road, Long Beach
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday