Basil Ultimate Pho & Fine Vietnamese Cuisine is a casual and spacious restaurant with modern decor. Although the shiny interior makes it seem too polished (read: not “real”), the food is quite authentic, as it should be — Basil is the creation of Pho Dau Bo’s (on International Avenue) former owners.
The restaurant was nearly full but we arrived at the tail-end of the lunch hour and were seated right away. Anybody else notice that Calgarians like to eat lunch right at noon? No other city seems so dedicated to eating on the clock, everyday. Knowing this, I always try to time my lunches for right before noon, or 12:45 p.m.
We started with delicious grilled beef summer rolls: vermicelli noodles, lettuce and grilled beef wrapped in rice paper (3 for $6.25). When I was a teenager, we’d go to my friend’s house to roll our own version of these. I always meant to keep track of how many of these I could stuff my face with, but would invariably forget midway through the bliss. Basil’s beef salad rolls remind me of those times.
Basil is well-known for their Mekong-style beef sate noodle soup (Pho sate, Ph.1 $9.50). The spicy and creamy broth with peanut overtones is the best I’ve had in Calgary.
There is a copious amount of thinly sliced beef and the portion is almost too large to finish. There’s an important lesson here: don’t talk to your date until you are halfway into your pho, otherwise, you’ll look into your bowl and see your reflection taunting you for being such a lightweight. You haven’t made a dent at all and now you’re salting your soup with tears of food gone to waste.
My friend Lucy ordered the sate beef and spring rolls on vermicelli (B7, $10.25). The beef was sweet; spring rolls crispy but standard. She liked the freshness of the cucumbers, lettuce and sprouts as well the ratio of vegetables to noodles. This dish didn’t stand out from vermicelli noodle bowls in general, so the price differential seems unwarranted.
There are also items you won’t see at most Vietnamese restaurants, like the do-it-yourself salmon salad rolls ($14.95) or pork shoulder and boiled eggs braised in coconut juice ($10.50).
You’ll also find curries, Vietnamese subs (banh mi), vermicelli bowls (bun), vegetarian dishes and innovative appetizers like the rocket shrimp rolls which are wrapped prawns with taro (4 for $6.95). With efficient service and reasonable prices, Basil is definitely worth visiting for their beef sate soup.
Basil Ultimate Pho & Fine Vietnamese Cuisine; 2770 32nd Ave. N.E.; (403) 457-0808; Monday to Thursday 11 am to 8 pm, Friday to Saturday 11 am to 9 pm, Sunday 11 am to 6 pm.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Price range: ($5.95 to $14.95)